OIC Secretary General sends letter to President Obama on his re-election: Peace in the Middle East, socio-economic development and combating religious intolerance are priority for US-OIC collaboration
Posted by Human Rights in Islamic Countries on January 28, 2013
OIC Newsletter Issue Number 4
The Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, sent a letter to the President of the United States, Barack Obama, on the occasion of his re-election. In it, Ihsanoglu recalls the great strides of US-OIC collaboration on a range of issues during the past four years of Obama’s administration including health, humanitarian aid and women’s empowerment in the Muslim world and that he looks forward to furthering the cooperation in key areas of mutual interest and concern in the upcoming four years. He underlined that peace in the Middle East, socio-economic development and combating religious intolerance are priority areas for the OIC.
The letter was handed to President Obama’s Special Envoy to the OIC, Rashad Hussein, during the visit of Hussein to OIC General Secretariat in Jeddah today, 23 January 2013. The Secretary General stated in his letter to President Obama that his reelection is testimony to the trust placed in his dynamic leadership by the American people and could be viewed as a vote of confidence in his policies signifying ‘change’ with particular reference to the policy of engagement with the Muslim world. He pointed out that OIC, being essentially a political organization operating along the principles of moderation and modernization, aims at sustaining a policy of engagement and not confrontation.
Ihsanoglu stressed that the Palestinian issue remains at the heart of the most pressing concerns to the OIC and the international community, which requires firm commitment by the US, and that the status quo of political stalemate and continuation of Israeli occupation and settlement policies in the occupied Palestinian territory including East Jerusalem are neither acceptable nor viable. Ihsanoglu stated that upgrading the status of Palestine to non-member observer state at the UN General Assembly last November is a golden opportunity that should not be lost and urged Obama to accelerate the realization of peace and stability.
Ihsanoglu referred to Obama’s speech to the Muslim world in Cairo in 2009, which he attended, calling it visionary and a positive statement with far reaching implications that raised expectations for a common future anchored in mutual respect and understanding. In this context, Ihsanoglu mentioned that OIC will continue to combat extremism, terrorism, intolerance and incitement to hatred and violence on religious grounds. The consensual passage of UN Human Rights Council resolution 16/18 on combating religious intolerance, which codified the eight points identified in his address to the 15th Session of the Human Rights Council, has been widely acknowledged as a positive development and a triumph of multilateralism, Ihsanoglu added. It must also be seen as a poster child of OIC-US cooperation, he said, pointing out to the Istanbul Process that he initiated with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to build on the consensus achieved.
The Secretary General also highlighted the issue of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar in his letter. While he acknowledged Obama’s efforts to bring the issue of the Rohingya Muslim community to the attention of the national authorities during his recent visit to the country, he urged Obama to support protect the human rights of the Rohingya ethnic minority and to restore their citizenship.
Ihsanoglu calls for an international warning system against instances of religious intolerance
Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), called for an effective international mechanism that could act as an early warning system against instances of discrimination and intolerance on religious grounds. He proposed an international Observatory, perhaps at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), with a broad mandate to monitor and document all instances of discrimination and intolerance on religious grounds.
The Secretary General was speaking at the high-level international meeting on 22 January 2013, in London, UK, upon the invitation of Baroness Saiyda Warsi, Senior Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to develop a common understanding on the way forward on the issue of intolerance on religious grounds.
The Secretary General pointed out that the OIC has an Observatory monitoring Islamophobia and the OSCE has a mechanism to monitor hate crimes, but what is needed is an international observatory with global coverage that would monitor intolerance and discrimination against all religions and their respective followers. He said that this would help develop an empirical basis to understand the extent of the problem, which in turn would figure into evolving an effective and concerted international response.
Ihsanoglu also called for building on the consensus that went into the UN Human Rights Council resolution 16/18 on combating intolerance on religious grounds and the Istanbul Process for implementing the resolution. He also pointed out that the recent meeting of eminent lawyers and human rights practitioners in Istanbul agreed that the provisions of existing legal instruments, including articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), suffice in covering OIC’s concerns, and that according equal weight to the concerns on both sides could form a good point of departure for developing a common understanding.
The London meeting comes after the 67th Session of the UN General Assembly last month, which adopted the resolution on combating religious intolerance for the second year in a row, and before the 22nd session of the HRC in February. The London meeting is the third in a series of meetings after Istanbul, the second was held in Washington DC. in December 2011. The Secretary General announced that the OIC will host the fourth meeting during the first half of this year.