The Organization of Islamic Cooperation Blames Free Speech for „Islamophobia“ in West
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, an influential bloc of 57 Muslim countries, has released the latest edition of its annual „Islamophobia“ report. The Sixth OIC Observatory Report on Islamophobia: October 2012-September 2013 is a 94-page document purporting to „offer a comprehensive picture of Islamophobia, as it exists mainly in contemporary Western societies.“ But the primary objective of the OIC—headquartered in Saudi Arabia and funded by dozens of Muslim countries that systematically persecute Christians and Jews—has long been to pressure Western countries into passing laws that would ban „negative stereotyping of Islam.“
In this context, the OIC’s annual Islamophobia report—an integral part of a sustained effort to prove the existence of a „culture of intolerance of Islam and Muslims“ in the West—is in essence a lobbying tool to pressure Western governments to outlaw all forms of „Islamophobia,“ a nebulous concept invented by the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1990s. The OIC report comprises five main chapters and several annexes aimed at documenting „incidents of slandering and demeaning Muslims and their sacred symbols including attacks on mosques, verbal abuses and physical attacks against adherents of Islam, mainly due to their cultural traits.“
But the common thread that binds the entire document together is the OIC’s repeated insistence that the main culprit responsible for „the institutionalization of Islamophobia“ in Western countries is freedom of speech, which the OIC claims has „contributed enormously to snowball Islamophobia and manipulate the mindset of ordinary Western people to develop a ‚phobia‘ of Islam and Muslims.“ According to the OIC, freedom of expression is shielding „the perpetrators of Islamophobia, who seek to propagate irrational fear and intolerance of Islam, [who] have time and again aroused unwarranted tension, suspicion and unrest in societies by slandering the Islamic faith through gross distortions and misrepresentations and by encroaching on and denigrating the religious sentiments of Muslims.“
Chapter 1 of the report deals with „Islamophobia, Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims,“ and purports to reveal the „unabated rise of Islamophobia in Western countries, thereby exacerbating tensions at all levels and constituting additional obstacles to the diversity and multicultural fabrics of the societies.“
According to the OIC, freedom of speech is to blame for the „perpetuation of Islamophobia,“ which:
…has become increasingly widespread, which, in turn, has caused an increase in the actual number of hate crimes committed against Muslims. These crimes range from the usual verbal abuse and discrimination, particularly in the fields of education and employment, to other acts of violence and vandalism, including physical assaults, attacks on Islamic centers and the desecration of mosques and cemeteries.
In this context, acceptance of various forms of intolerance, including hate speech and the propagation of negative stereotypes against Islam and Muslims in some western countries contribute towards proliferation of intolerant societies. This process is further supported by… the exploitation of freedom of expression and perpetuation of an ideological context advocating an inescapable conflict of civilizations.“
Another factor favoring „the climate of intolerance“ is:
…the negative role played by major media outlets who not only propagate stereotypes and misperceptions about Islam, but also undermine and usually keep shadowed any meaningful instance of individuals or groups speaking out against intolerance, including advocacy of religious hatred and violence. This biased approach of the media has helped drawing an emphatically demonized, sometimes dehumanized, image of Muslims in the minds of a certain class of people which is predisposed to xenophobic feelings due to the increasingly dire economic situation, or the simply to the irrational fear of the other.“
Chapter 2 of the report deals with „Manifestations of Islamophobia in the West.“ According to the OIC:
The number of Islamophobic incidents continues to rise in the US, as a result of anti-Muslim propaganda. It is particularly alarming that anti-Muslim sentiments are taking deeper roots infiltrating further in the educational system. Notable among several other worrying trends/cases are: the initiatives taken by a leading and powerful US legislator [US Representative Peter King] to convene special Congressional Hearings on Radicalization of Islam in the US… In the same vein, the Republican Party in the recent 2013 [sic] US Presidential elections also used the anti-Islam card as a strategy.
With regard to Islamophobic trends in Europe, various reports and polls have revealed growing misperception vis-à-vis Islam and Muslims. Among the most common and recurring… are the ideas that Muslims are inclined to violence including revenge and retaliation; that Islam is an inherently expansionist religion, which strives for political influence, and whose followers are obsessed with proselytizing others, and more generally that Islam deprives women of their rights and encourages religious fanaticism and radicalism. According to the same polls, only a minor portion of the public tends to see Islam in a more positive light, as being a religion of peace that preaches love for neighbors, charity, openness and tolerance… Muslims who live in xenophobic environments are more exposed to daily stress and other forms of moral prejudice.“
The OIC concludes that „journalists and media organizations have a responsibility to avoid promoting rhetoric of hate by acting as a platform for its widespread dissemination.“
Chapter 3 of the OIC report highlights „Some Positive Developments“ in terms of initiatives and other steps and positions taken to combat Islamophobia, including:
…the condemnation of anti-Muslim hate speech by various quarters, including non-Muslim religious leaders; the barring from entry of certain Islamophobes to a number of countries where they intended to take part in anti-Muslim rallies or deliver inflammatory lectures; the recognition of Muslim holidays and other strict sanctions taken against acts of manifest religious intolerance. It was noted with satisfaction that a number of international organizations, including UNSECO, the OSCE and the Council of Europe, have recognized the danger posed by Islamophobia and have taken concrete steps to combat it, notably by laying down Guidelines for Educators on Countering Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims.“
Chapter 4 of the report, „OIC Initiatives and Activities to Counter Islamophobia,“ focused on the OIC’s ongoing efforts to promote the so-called Istanbul Process, an aggressive effort by Muslim countries to make it an international crime to criticize Islam. The explicit aim of the Istanbul Process is to enshrine in international law a global ban on all critical scrutiny of Islam and Islamic Sharia law.
In recent years, the OIC has been engaged in a determined diplomatic offensive to persuade Western democracies to implement United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) Resolution 16/18, which calls on all countries to combat „intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of… religion and belief.“ (Analysis of the OIC’s war on free speech can be found here and here.) Resolution 16/18, which was adopted at HRC headquarters in Geneva in March 2011 (with the support of the Obama Administration)—together with the OIC-sponsored Resolution 66/167, which was quietly approved by the 193-member UN General Assembly on December 19, 2011—is widely viewed as marking a significant step forward in OIC efforts to advance the international legal concept of defaming Islam.
According to the OIC report:
In November 2012, a special ministerial barnstorming session was convened on the sidelines of the 39th session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers, which aimed at devising an OIC Approach for Combating Discrimination and Intolerance against Muslims…The session… called for constituting a panel of eminent persons including renowned legal experts and human rights practitioners to offer its expert view on the issue of religious intolerance and incitement to hatred to the 12th Islamic Summit. The panel, which was held in Istanbul, in January 2013, expressed support for the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) Resolution 16/18, on combating intolerance, discrimination, incitement to violence and violence on the basis of religion or belief.
The OIC also hosted the 3rd Meeting of International Experts on the Implementation of UNHRC Resolution 16/18, under the framework of the Istanbul Process… The meeting… attended by delegations from over sixty countries… reaffirmed the international community’s commitment to Resolution 16/18 and the need to focus on its implementation.“
Chapter 5 of the OIC report provides a set of conclusions and recommendations, which call on Western governments, international organizations and non-state actors to:
Take all necessary measures within their power and legal/jurisdictional systems to ensure a safe environment free from Islamophobic harassment… by strictly enforcing applicable hate crime and discrimination laws;
Create, whenever necessary, specialized bodies and initiatives in order to combat Islamophobia… based on internationally recognized human rights principles and standards;
Combat Islamophobic hate crimes, which can be fuelled by Islamophobic hate speech in the media and on the Internet;
Take all necessary measures to ensure that the media refrains from serving as a platform for the dissemination of hate speech… by associating extremism and terrorism to Islam and Muslims… and presents the true positive nature of Islam.
Implement provisions of UNHRC Resolution 16/18 through the Istanbul Process mechanism as it offers a positive platform for debate, exchange of best practices and maintaining of a common and unified stance.“
The report states that „the OIC and the Member States should not be complacent in underscoring the fact that our present day world is gradually being driven towards the dangerous precipices of growing intolerance of religious and cultural diversity. This is the clear and present danger that the OIC has been consistent in warning the international community against. The sooner the phenomenon of Islamophobia is addressed, the better it is for ensuring peaceful coexistence of the present as well for the future generations to come.“
The report concludes with the transcript of a speech by OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, in which he thanks American and European political leaders for their help (here and here) in advancing his efforts to restrict free speech in the West.
„The Istanbul Process initiated with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton to build further on the consensus building that went into Resolution 16/18 must be carried forward. While the resolution forms a triumph of multilateralism, Istanbul Process must also be seen as a poster child of OIC-US-EU cooperation… I appreciate that this Process has come to be recognized as the way forward by all stakeholders… We need to build on it,“ Ihsanoglu said.
First published at Gatestone Institute.