Tuesday, March 25, 2008

OIC: Eliminating "defamation" of Islam.

Date: Tuesday 25 March 2008
Subj: OIC: Eliminating "defamation" of Islam.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


OIC: ELIMINATING "DEFAMATION" OF ISLAM

In December 2005 the Heads of State and Government at the Organisation of Islamic Conference's 3rd Extraordinary Summit in Makkah adopted a "Ten Year Program of Action" to address the most "prominent challenges facing the Muslim world today". Through the Ten Year Program of Action (TYPOA) the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) aims to strengthen Islamic solidarity and project the "true image and noble values of Islam" thus enabling the Muslim Ummah to achieve its renaissance". (TYPOA: Link 1)

Item VI on the OIC's Ten Year Program of Action is "Combating Islamophobia". Tasks to be undertaken in this regard include the establishment of an Observatory on Islamophobia tasked with monitoring Islamophobia and "defamation" of Islam and issuing annual reports; and getting the UN to "adopt an international resolution on Islamophobia, and call on all States to enact laws to counter it, including deterrent punishments".

It must be noted that December 2005 was three months after the Danish Mohammed cartoons were published in Denmark (with no response) and one month after they were re-printed in Cairo, Egypt (front page during Ramadan, with no response). Most notably however, it was two months before the "Cartoon Intifada" erupted in the Levant and spread across the Muslim world. The Cartoon Intifada, in which Danish embassies were razed, numerous lives were lost and Danish products were boycotted, subsequently became the backdrop for the OIC's April 2006 presentation of its resolution against the defamation of religions, specifically Islam, to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

The OIC's anti-"defamation" resolutions have now passed in both the UNHRC (see LINK 2) and the UN General Assembly where it was adopted in December 2007 by a recorded vote of 108 in favour to 51 against, with 25 abstentions.

Having achieved its goals in the UN (a feat the OIC regards as indicative of "the international community's views and willingness to eliminate any discrimination against Muslims or defamation of Islam" (LINK 3: p26), the OIC is now moving on from the recognition of "defamation" to the elimination of "defamation" using means both positive -- supplying an alternative message -- and negative -- "deterrent punishments".

In preparation for this next stage, the 34th Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers, meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan, in May 2007, commissioned the Observatory on Islamophobia to submit its first report, covering the period from May to December 2007, along with its recommendations, to the OIC's 11th Session of the Islamic Summit Conference in Dakar, Senegal, on 13-14 March 2008.

The theme of the Dakar Islamic Summit Conference was "Islam in the 21st Century". The agenda, speeches, resolutions and first OIC Observatory Report on Islamophobia can be found on the OIC website (or for a direct link through to the English version, see link 3).

The OIC's Observatory report is built on the foundation laid by Mr Doudou Diene, the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance through his 17 August 2007 report to the 6th Session of the UNHRC on "the manifestations of defamation of religions and in particular on the serious implications of Islamophobia on the enjoyment of all rights". For this report and an analysis of it, see LINK 4.

The central claims of the OIC's Observatory Report on Islamophobia are consistent with the OIC's Ten Year Program of Action which aims to combat Islamophobia by correcting the world's perception of Islam and creating "deterrent punishments".

The Observatory Report on Islamophobia claims that:
1) that in order to have peace, the correct (OIC-approved) version of history and of Islam must be understood, accepted and promoted (anything else is "baseless" Islamophobia or inciteful "defamation" of Islam and responsible for the violent, destructive and punitive -- though definitely not immature, irrational, criminal or Islamic -- Muslims rioting in the world today);
2) that Islamophobia exists in part because there is no legal instrument to combat it, therefore a "binding legal instrument" must be created "to fight the menace of Islamophobia".

Further to this, the report lists in its Annex A 34 "major incidents" of Islamophobia and/or "defamation" of Islam, occurring from May to Dec 2007.

The message of the report could be summed up by this quote from page 50: "Westerners should bear in mind Amr Moussa's words at the inaugural session: 'Islam is different from Communism because it is not easy to beat, although it is easy to live with and easy to dialogue with. However, if one targets it, the whole world will be in extreme danger.'"

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Before embarking on a closer examination of the Observatory report, it is important to reiterate: Islam and Muslims and race are not the same thing. It is wrong and misleading to freely interchange the terms as if they were.

Islam is not a person or a race, but an ideology and whole-of-life system. Muslims, on the other hand, are diverse human beings whose human rights must be protected. Perpetual satisfaction is not a fundamental human right and it is certainly not the reality of life for anyone. Race is a totally separate issue to religion.

Religious liberty (which, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes the right to convert, just as freedom of speech includes the right to question and debate) is a fundamental human right. Human rights principles and laws exist to protect the rights of human beings, not the claims of religions (human rights = rights of humans).

Of all things in this world, religion has the least grounds to claim an exemption from scrutiny, for religion is -- or is supposed to be -- an issue not of race but of eternal truth.

Secondly, defamation is legally defined as "a false accusation of an offence or a malicious misrepresentation of someone's words or actions" (American Heritage Dictionary). While the OIC freely employs the term "defamation", the more correct word would be criticism. Criticism is not defamation unless it is false, and while the OIC claims that critical and negative views of Islam are wrong and misconceived, that claim ought to be open to debate.

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ELIMINATING DEFAMATION
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1) CORRECTING PERCEPTIONS

As noted, the Observatory report builds on the foundation laid by Mr Doudou Diene who has asserted that the root cause of Islamophobia and Muslim reactionary violence is "defamation" of Islam. The message to all historians, journalists, human rights and religious liberty advocates, public figures, authors, cartoonists, film-makers, song-writers and others is: correct your perceptions, eliminate "defamation" of Islam, adopt the OIC-approved message and you will have peace. Fail and you can only have danger.

According to the Observatory report, "Prejudice and intolerance vis-a-vis Islam is an old phobia, and has been a stubborn and distinctive trait of Western society and the European psyche since the seventh century." (page 5)

According to the report, the historian Groeber was correct when he wrote that "Islam spread in the whole world in a very short period of time like sunshine spreads in moments", emerging all at once as a "perfectly integrated phenomenon", miraculously acquiring a universal identity from its inception. Its quick advance sent "strong shock waves of fear and awe across all Europe". While Islam's "radiant civilisation enriched Europe in all fields of science, knowledge and morality", the Church exploited the masses' obsessive fear of Islam to increase its own power. (p5,6)

According to the report, Europeans were for so long devoted to monoculture and the belief that their culture is superior, that now they cannot help but be irritated by the presence of foreigners of different cultures. The report charges that Europeans are "unable to adjust to the cultural diversity that has become a fact of life in today's global village." (p6) Consequently, so the report claims, "The new phenomenon of Islamophobia . . . has emerged as a racist movement of intolerance and discrimination and should be dealt with as such."

On page 11 of the Observatory report, ten alleged "Root Causes of Islamophobia" are listed. The first cause listed, "Historical Perspective", explains that the reason Islam came under attack from Christianity and Judaism was that as a "modern faith" with "liberal values in terms of upholding human rights, equality and human dignity and the rights of women", Islam had found "greater acceptability with the people". (In other words, Jewish and Christian hostility towards Islam has historically been driven by apostaphobia vis-a-vis Islam.)

The second root cause of Islamophobia is said to be the ignorant mindset amongst "the common people of the West" who have wrongly believed that "Islam was a religion that lived by the sword and preached violence and hatred against non-believers and that it stood to challenge the Western democratic way of life".

Other stated root causes include insufficient dissemination of information about Muslim victims of terror and Muslim rejection of terror; "misrepresentation and incorrect interpretation of Islam", "abuse of freedom of expression" which gives rise to hurt and insult of Muslims; fear that economic opportunities are threatened by immigrants; and "the continued occupation of Arab and Palestinian territories . . ."

On numerous occasions throughout the report the primary Islamophobic misconception and defamation of Islam that must be corrected is that of the wrongful linking of Islam to "terrorism, violence and human rights violations".

The other roots causes of Islamophobia are, the OIC claims, related to the "lack of legal mechanisms . . . as well the absence of a binding international instrument to contain defamation of religions".

2) DETERRENT PUNISHMENTS

Quoting from the Observatory report (p30, 1.1 a): "The primary objective of the Observatory in accordance with the Ten Year Program of Action should be to correct projection of Islam as a religion of moderation, peace and tolerance."

The Observatory will therefore monitor closely all Islamophobic incidents and "defamatory" statements, and all lectures and workshops taking place in different parts of the world. It will also update the list of repudiated Muslim think-tanks and NGOs that can monitor and counter the anti-Islam campaign. (p30)

The report continually but erroneously depicts Islamophobia and "defamation" of Islam as incidents of racism and racial discrimination. It also continually refers to "defamation" of Islam as a human rights issue. But that is also wrong. Human rights are rights for humans, and the human rights of Muslims are protected in the West. (If the OIC was not so preoccupied with the Muslim colonisation of Europe it might have more incentive to address the Islamic world's brain-drain and the reasons why such large numbers of Muslims are deserting the Muslim world for the West.)

According to the Observatory report, combating Islamophobia and "defamation" of Islam requires the creation of a legal instrument, along with a committee to implement and monitor it as victims file complaints under the 1503 Human Rights Council Complaint Procedure. (p31)

LAWS? SANCTIONS? A COURT?

It would be very interesting to know what such a legal instrument might look like and how it might work. The Observatory report gives clues but no details.

On page 50 of the Observatory report it is claimed that the OIC cannot properly address the challenge of Islamophobia and "defamation" of Islam if the "official authorities and politicians do not assume [an] ethically and morally righteous and responsible attitude in front of the masses . . ."

Will the Cartoon Intifada form the pattern for OIC response to "defamation" of Islam? Will Islamophobic incidents or "defamatory" remarks (at least those selected by the OIC as being found worthy to warrant action) be followed by riots, then accusations and/or charges, then a demand that the relevant government accept responsibility and act against the perpetrator? Will a government's refusal to submit to OIC demands elicit OIC-sponsored sanctions from the Muslim world?

Page 21 of the Observatory reports gives us a preview of what may be in store. After the Dutch parliamentarian Mr Geert Wilders announced in late November 2007 that he was producing a documentary critical of the Qur'an, the OIC General Secretariat expressed "a strong note of concern to the Embassy of the Netherlands in Riyadh . . . requesting the Dutch government's intervention to stop the broadcasting of the documentary."

Subsequently, "The OIC Secretary General met the Foreign Minister of the Netherlands, Mr. Maxime Verhagen, upon the latter's request . . . in Madrid on January 15, 2008. The Dutch Minister informed the Secretary General that his Government acknowledged the concern of the OIC with seriousness and that the Government does not associate with and condemns such activities in the strongest possible terms. He also informed the Secretary General that he met the parliamentarian in question personally to ask him to refrain from such a derogatory act. He also explained that if the announced documentary is broadcast and the content violates the Dutch laws, then, the parliamentarian would be prosecuted. The Dutch Foreign Minister appealed to the OIC Secretary General for his help and cooperation so that the film does not hurt the Dutch interests in the Muslim world."

The OIC could only reiterate its concern and "caution" the Dutch FM that "the broadcast and distribution of the documentary could spark off strong repercussions that might go out of hand and become difficult to contain. He told the Dutch Foreign Minister that the best option available to avoid a bad situation would be to do the needful in stopping Mr Wilders from exhibiting the film and that the Dutch Government should impose all necessary measures in this regard."

On 18 January the Dutch PM held a press conference in The Hague where he expressed his concern that "the broadcast of the film would invite reactions that could affect public order, public safety and security and the economy". The Dutch Embassy then responded to the OIC General Secretariat on 19 January with a note that the Dutch government had openly expressed its concerns about the possible offensive nature of the film to Muslims.

The OIC Secretary General then wrote letters to various European ministers with authority in the EU, the Council of Europe, and OSCE calling for their intervention, reminding them that "advocacy of racial or religious hatred" is prohibited by law. This drama is ongoing.

If a "legal instrument" is established, might it be possible that individual uncensored, unrepentant or persistent "Islamophobes" and "defamers" of Islam might be indicted to face court on criminal charges? One thing is certain, the OIC would not be envisaging hauling Westerners before state courts in Libya, Iran, Syria or Sudan. Nor would they envisage the creation of a special court, linked to the OIC in Makkah, designed specifically to handle cases of Western Islamophobia and "defamation" of Islam. It is more probable that the OIC would envisage using a European Human Rights Court as its legal instrument, staffed by Europeans who would in the name of peace and human rights codify anti-"defamation" laws and even prosecute, sentence and detain "violators".

It is quite possible that moves are already afoot in this regard. In his opening speech to the Dakar Summit, OIC General Secretary Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu was pleased to report that concerning the fight to combat dangerous Islamophobia, "We have established strong ties with the centres of 'think-tanks' in Europe and the USA to expose our views and values and defend our causes."

The Observatory report notes on page 45 that the OIC is in the process of opening an office in Brussels that will enable closer cooperation between it and the EU. On page 48 we read: "The Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) General Secretariat based in Vienna and OSCE's democratization and human rights center, ODIHR, based in Warsaw are prominent among the Western intergovernmental institutions with which the OIC General Secretariat established a high level of cooperation on the issue of Islamophobia during the last two years." Throughout the report it is clear that the OIC is hard at work getting the UN, the EU, the OSCE and other Western bodies not just lining up behind the OIC agenda, but adopting and even implementing it.

In this New Supranationalist World Order it is no longer inconceivable that a politically motivated administrative body might establish a court specifically charged to implement its will and convict those it has already deemed guilty. Indeed, such a court would not even be unique. States wracked with Muslim riots and OIC-sponsored sanctions might eventually be very pleased to be able to appease Islamic reactionary forces by handing over indicted persons.

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The Observatory Report on Islamophobia is peppered with numerous appeals for dialogue. However, it is clear that this is not to be a Western-style dialogue where people talk freely to each other, but something more akin to a screen-test, where the participants sit before cameras and microphones and read from an OIC-approved script! And the promise is that those who follow the script will receive the "carrot" of peace, while those who deviate will know the "stick" of law and punishment.


Links

1) 10 year program of action outlined (IINA)
http://www.sciencedev.net/Docs/OIC%2010%20year%20plan.htm

2) UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL: Protecting Religion. 12 April 2007
http://www.ea.org.au/ReligiousLiberty/NewsAnalysis/UNHUMANRIGHTSCOUNCILPROTECTINGRELIGION.aspx

3) Observatory Report on Islamophobia (covers May-Dec 2007).
Presented at the 11th Session of The Islamic Summit Conference
Dakar, Senegal from 13-14 March 2008
http://www.oic-oci.org/oicnew/is11/english/Islamophobia-rep-en.pdf

For all other the speeches and resolutions from the Summit see:
http://www.oic-oci.org/oicnew/is11/english/

4) WEA RLC News & Analysis. 17 Sept 2007
UN Human Rights Council: Watershed days
- UNHRC to choose between defending human rights and Islamising human rights.
By: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal
http://www.worldevangelicals.org/commissions/rlc/reports/articles.htm?id=1411

SEE ALSO
Islamic states seek world freedom curbs: humanists
By Robert Evans, 12 March 2008
http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSL1277265220080312?sp=true

Difficult tasks facing the OIC
By Hassan Hanizadeh, 13 March2008
http://www.tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp?code=164995
includes: "In addition, Islamic countries must begin playing a major role in international bodies such as the UN Security Council, the European Union, and the International Atomic Energy Agency so that they can elevate Muslims' status because Muslims living in the United States and European countries are treated like second-class citizens, although, based on Islamic teachings, the non-Muslims living in Islamic countries enjoy equal rights with Muslims."

World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
15 February 2008
RELIGIOUS LIBERTY TRENDS 2007-2008
-- Apostasy, Apostaphobia and postmodernism
-- The New Cold War, and its implications for religious liberty
By WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal
http://www.worldevangelicals.org/commissions/rlc/reports/articles.htm?id=1666

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Malaysians to vote against creeping Islamisation.

Date: Thursday 6 March 2008
Subj: Malaysians to vote against creeping Islamisation.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


For a long, long time, progressive Malaysians have been content with the status quo, believing the only alternative was the instant Islamisation advocated by PAS (Parti Islam Se-Malaysia). What they did not realise however was that the status quo meant creeping Islamisation.

For background see WEA RLC News & Analysis "The Islamisation of Malaysia", by Elizabeth Kendal, 7 June 2007.

Malaysians are becoming aware of the degree to which decades of creeping Islamisation is now threatening their whole society. A showdown is brewing between the Islamists and the libertarians who want global engagement, modernisation and liberty. This group includes liberal Malays, Hindus (ethnic Indians), ethnic Chinese and Christians. (Some 80 percent of Malaysia's
Christians are ethnic Chinese). While Muslim hardliners are agitating for more Sharia, libertarian forces are desperately trying to head off disaster. Multitudes of Malaysians are coming to believe that the status quo is no longer acceptable, and for them the Saturday 8 March general elections are an opportunity not to be missed.

The general elections being held on 8 March will doubtless not unseat the ruling United Malay National Organisation (UMNO)-led Barisan Nasional (BN) -- the coalition of communal parties that has ruled Malaysia as a political hegemon since independence. The BN presently has a 90 percent majority, holding 200 of the 219 seats in the outgoing national legislature. These elections however could see the rise of serious political opposition built on a platform of non-communalism, religious liberty and a commitment to Malaysia's secular constitution.

RELIGION AND RACE


On 3 March, South China Morning Post (SCMP) ran an article entitled "Malaysia's PM braced for religious backlash". This article, the first in a three-part series on Malaysia's forthcoming general elections, examined the disenchantment felt by Malaysian Christians and Hindus and their resolve to voice their concerns at the ballot box.

As SCMP reports: "Racial and religious discrimination against Malaysia's minority Chinese and Indian voters has become a key plank of the opposition campaign in the March 8 polls.

"In the past four years the country had been wracked by disputes between majority Malays -- who are almost all Muslims -- and minority Christians and Hindus. The disputes have covered issues including the right to convert, custody of children, burial and freedom of religion."

Motivated by a growing awareness that their liberty is seriously under threat -- an awareness fed by recent events such as Lina Joy's apostasy trial, book bans and Bible seizures -- Malaysia's churches are calling on Christians to examine the platforms of the candidates, and vote for those who champion religious freedom.

Associated Press (AP) reported on 21 February: "The call illustrates growing concern among religious minorities who feel their rights are being eroded by a rise in Islamic fervour, which many blame on overzealous Muslim bureaucrats in Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's government.

"Churches have begun handing out brochures urging Christians to examine the platforms and records of political parties on 'freedom of religion, conscience and speech' before casting their ballots in March 8 national elections." (Link 1)

Hermen Shastri, executive secretary of the Christian Federation of Malaysia, told AP that while the churches remain totally non-partisan they are concerned by "the trend of Islamisation and how that is affecting other religious communities". He told SCMP, "We can't vote blindly any more . . . we need lawmakers to defend our secular constitution and religious freedom."

While non-Muslims and progressives are agitating for liberty, Islamists are pressing for what is essentially talibanisation. AP reports: "Some 100 Islamic groups in Malaysia called Wednesday [20 Feb] for wider powers for Shariah courts and stricter enforcement of religious and moral doctrines ahead of general elections next month.

"In a list of election demands, the groups said the government should declare Malaysia an Islamic-majority nation and reject any attempt to make it a secular state. The demands were made by the Defenders of Islam, a loose coalition of about 100 mostly conservative Islamic organisations representing students, professionals and others.

"The groups' statement called for asserting 'the significant role of Islam in the state'. It also called for the power of Islamic Shariah courts to be strengthened and new laws to block the propagation of other religions among Muslims, especially in states with large minority populations.

"The groups sought more Islamic studies in schools, increased scholarships for Muslims and the implementation of Islamic practices, such as prayers during school assemblies. They also said television stations should ban Western entertainment." (Link 2)

According to Yusri Mohamad, president of the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia which leads the coalition, Malaysia's racial and religious tensions are the fault of certain groups which challenge Islam's role in the multiracial country. He told AP that the Defenders of Islam's demands, which will be distributed to all candidates and political parties, were aimed at highlighting Muslim needs, not countering the Christian campaign.

Sensing the discontent, PM Abdullah Badawi is busy being all things to all men, promising elections "goodies" as needed. In the Malay PAS stronghold of Kelantan he promises more mosques and development. In Chinese-majority Penang he promises more schools, land and University places for the Chinese. He is promising Muslims there will be more Islamic law, while promising non-Muslims there will be liberty, consensus and solidarity. (Link 3)

In a 4 March SCMP article entitled "Malaysian parties desperate to woo Chinese electors" -- the second in its three part series -- social activist Ramakrishnan Ponnusamy asks, "In Terengganu, Abdullah said he will defend Islamic sharia. He comes to Penang and says he will defend secular rights. How is he going to do it?"

One very interesting and encouraging revelation from this SCMP article is that the Chinese are realising that, because their birth rate is so much lower than the Malay birth rate, Chinese political influence can only decline into the future. For this reason, they are seeing they must advocate on a non-communal basis and secure rights for all, not just for the Chinese.

"The changing demographics mean Chinese-based parties are competing for a smaller pool of voters, and more constituencies are becoming mixed-race. 'As the Chinese numbers shrink, their political clout will also shrink,' Mr Wong said. 'Playing on the fears of Chinese to win votes will not work in the future. The solution is to form meaningful alliances with the Malay opposition and struggle for the interest of all Malaysian people, not just Chinese.' " (SCMP, 4 March)

If a serious, credible, non-communal, rights-affirming opposition committed to Malaysia's secular constitution can be consolidated, then the 8 March general elections may prove to be a watershed moment for Malaysian politics. It would however be only the beginning of a long struggle that would require strength, courage and commitment. For as the forces of liberty resist creeping Islamisation, Islamists will doubtless do everything in their power to resist the forces of liberty.

Elizabeth Kendal
rl-research@crossnet.org.au

Links

1) Concerned about religious freedoms, Malaysian churches step into political
sphere. (AP) 21 Feb 2008
http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/02/21/asia/AS-FEA-REL-Malaysia-Religious-Freedoms.php

2) Malaysian Groups Want Islam Bolstered. (AP) 21 Feb 2008
http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5g5LXImPm65EXQsxmyMHtIk6MP8BwD8UU17S01

3) Government Committed To Islamic Law, Won't Affect Other Faiths – PM
KUALA TERENGGANU, 1 March 2008
http://www.bernama.com.my/bernama/state_news/news.php?id=317648&cat=et
Religion to Win Malaysian Vote. 25 Feb 2008
http://www.turkishweekly.net/news.php?id=52835
Malaysia polls turn into fight for moral high ground
http://www.boston.com/news/world/asia/articles/2008/02/25/malaysia_polls_turn_into_fight_for_moral_high_ground/
Malaysian voters wooed with Islam
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7265404.stm