OIC Islamophobia Observatory presents first report to Islamic summit


Dakar : The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Islamophobia Observatory’s first report, to be presented to the 11th Session of the Islamic Summit Conference set to begin Thursday, expressed hope that member states would continue efforts toward combating this phenomena.

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The report, covering May-December 2007, highlighted efforts by the observatory and the OIC secretary general to stand up to Islamophobia and to make it a priority on the international community’s agenda.

It presents issues in four areas: the concept of Islamophobia and its historic background; new forms of Islamophobia; the observatory’s efforts on the regional and international levels to counter this phenomenon; and findings and recommendations.

Islamophobia is defined as the extreme fear of Islam or hate for the religion, and includes racism, being bias, distinction, and stereotyping.

The observatory’s report relies on opinion polls, studies and reports by renowned international institutions in order to establish the increasingly rising phenomena of Islamophobia.

It establishes that Islamophobia will remain a source for concern for the international community in the near future, but said that the reaction of the Muslim world to the recent publication of cartoon insulting Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) succeeded in alerting the international community as to the dangerousness of this issue.

Moreover, it said the appointment of a US envoy to the OIC and the Vatican’s decision to establish a department for dialogue with Muslims are important developments.

The report also takes into account the important role played by the media in dealing with Islamophobia and notes that Western media has fuel this hate of Muslims. It mentions the conference held by the Azeri government in cooperation with the OIC Secretariat on the role of media in boosting tolerance and mutual understanding in April 2007, which concluded that freedom of expression is a basic right but that it had to come hand-in-hand with responsibility by the party exercising this right.

It also notes Resolution 60/150 of the 60th UN General Assembly Session on standing up to the tarnishing of the image of religions and calls for respecting beliefs and not insulting them.

The resolution reflects the international community’s readiness to root out discrimination against Muslims and insulting Islam.

As for non-government organizations (NGOs) and civil societies, the report notes their important role in standing up to discrimination against Muslims living in non-Muslim societies.

It mentions the two sessions held by the UN General Assembly on the role of NGOs in creating understanding between religions, cultures and cooperation to achieve peace.

On recommendations, the report notes that the observatory’s main goal, as stipulated in the Ten-Year Action Program, is to correct the distorted image of Islam and to highlight its teachings of moderation, peace and tolerance.

The report calls for closely monitoring all Islamophobic incidents, as well as raising awareness among OIC member states on how to deal with this issue and coordinating their efforts with the observatory to organize meetings and workshops, and inviting top Muslim scholars to participate in conferences so as to help change the image of the religion.

Moreover, the report calls for placing clear plans and strategies for facing Islamophobia-related challenges, encouraging public debates, and support by OIC members for the observatory.

It also emphasizes the importance of reporting incidents of Islamophobia, encouraging research centers and NGOs in Western countries to develop relations with their non-Muslim counterparts, and to rally Muslim media channels to wage counter campaigns against attacks on Islam.

On the part of Western countries, the report calls for avoiding statements that provoke sentiments or insult religious symbols, noting the Muslims are an inseparable part of the European countries in which they live and this have the right to practice their religion freely.
It calls for protecting Muslim minorities and ensuring that they are not discriminated against.

It adds that the misperception that Islam approves of terrorism and violence has to be eliminated, Islamophobia must not be mixed with the war against terrorism, and religious identity has to be recognized.

It concludes that at present, there is an awareness in the international community about Islamophobia, but hopes that OIC member states will continue to exert efforts to counter this phenomena at the bilateral and multilateral levels.