OIC Newsletter Issue Number 2 | 10/01/2013
A panel of legal and human rights experts prepared the groundwork for the political strategy of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to tackle religious intolerance against Muslims and the growing incidents of Islam bashing. The two-day meeting held in Istanbul of the Panel of Eminent Persons on Combating Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims expanded on a working paper drafted by the OIC General Secretariat for a politically tenable strategy that is anchored firmly in international law.
With the increasing trend of Islamophobia, such as the reprehensible episodes of burning of copies of the Holy Qur’an by a Pastor, the Utoya massacre in Norway, and most recently the release of the trailer of ‘The Innocence of Muslims’ on YouTube, in addition to indications of institutionalization and constitutionalization of Islamophobia, there is mounting public pressure on OIC Member States to draw a line and take concrete action, according to OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu.
“The OIC strategy must be proportionate to expectations of the Muslim World – being their political voice. It must be substantive and credible to shift the initiative away from the street to the table of meaningful and result oriented multilateral discourse,” said Ihsanoglu in his opening remarks to the meeting on January 7, 2013. “We must emphasize that there is no hierarchy of human rights whereby a single right can trump others. OIC believes that the relevant provisions of international law on freedom of opinion and expression support our position. If so, it must clearly be brought out with cogent legal arguments. Or we should look for other legally tenable options to engage the negotiating partners in a result-oriented fashion,” he added.
As mandated by the 39th Council of Foreign Ministers held in Djibouti last November, the significance of the Panel lies in furnishing a set of available options, in terms of legal merits and demerits, on combating discrimination and intolerance against Muslims. A legal opinion is formed based on purely technical analysis. The output of the Panel’s work will be presented to the OIC leadership at the forthcoming 12th OIC Summit in Cairo on 2-7 February 2013, which is expected to take a political decision on an OIC approach to dealing with this issue.
The deliberations of the Panel will also be useful during the high-level meeting at Wilton Park in the UK on 22 January 2013, which is part of the Istanbul Process launched by the Secretary General to implement UN Human Rights Council resolution 16/18 on combating religious intolerance. In that context, the Panel addressed the issue of criminalization of incitement to imminent violence and accorded it a special focus. Furthermore, the work of the Panel could contribute significantly towards the ongoing international discourse on combating intolerance and discrimination on religious grounds.