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OIC seeks rights debates based on Islamic values

Posted by Human Rights in Islamic Countries on March 11, 2014


Iyad Madani, OIC SG

JEDDAH: HABIB SHAIKH | Published — Tuesday 4 February 2014

One of the major challenges of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is finding ways to enrich global human rights debates with Islamic values and principles, said Iyad Madani, the newly appointed OIC secretary-general.

In a statement issued at the fourth session of the OIC’s Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC), on Sunday here, Madani said that current international human rights laws are based on Western values.

He said the OIC was looking particularly at limitations on freedom of expression, gender equality, applying human rights in accordance with the OIC member states’ constitutional and legal systems, and stopping the spread of extremism.

With reference to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration on Human Rights and major UN human rights instruments, he said most OIC countries have “willingly adopted and implemented international human rights norms. However, there are a number of issues that go beyond the normal scope of human rights and clash with Islamic teachings,” Madani said in the statement.

Freedom of expression is considered a fundamental right, but despite “repeated incidents of hatred and violence resulting from discrimination based on stereotyping and stigmatization of individuals, communities and religions, some countries continue to refuse any limitations or responsible use of this right,” Madani said.

“Muslim countries wanting to ensure respect for the sanctity and reputation of religious values, scriptures and personalities for the promotion of peace in society are criticized for limiting this freedom through blasphemy laws.”

“One of the main issues related to the gender equality debate is the very definition of the term gender. While OIC countries prefer to use the notion of equality between men and women, Western countries push for the term ‘gender,’ which goes beyond the normal definition of man and woman into the direction of how one perceives him or herself rather than his or her actual physical appearance.”

“Another challenge facing the commission is that all references to human rights in the OIC documents stipulate that these principles should be applied in accordance with the member states’ constitutional and legal systems.”

He said there needs to be a way found to define these stipulations, and create “a yardstick that each individual member state can look at to measure the distance between the Islamic human rights model and its own laws and practices,” he said.

Another important challenge was how to “deprive the extreme voices” in member states from claiming they represent Islam.

“The road ahead is full of challenges, but the OIC now has the framework and mechanism to move ahead, and the commission is the spearhead of this effort,” Madani said.

He said that the OIC takes pride in the fact that Islam was the first religion that laid down universal fundamental rights for humanity. The OIC had since its inception taken care to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, safeguard the rights of women and their participation in all spheres of life, and assist Muslim minorities and communities outside the member states to preserve their dignity, and cultural and religious identities.

The OIC charter stipulated the formation of the IPCHR, as one of its organs to promote civil, political, social and economic rights in conformity with Islamic values.

In its 10-year strategic plan, approved in Makkah in 2005, the OIC asserted that it was important for member states to revive the Muslim Ummah’s pioneering role on rights issues. They should expand the scope of political participation, ensure equality, civil liberties and social justice, promote transparency and accountability, and eliminate corruption.

The Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam embodies the OIC’s most complete statement on human rights in Islam. Other documents followed suit including the covenant on the Rights of the Child in Islam and the OIC Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women.

“The commission has done commendable work on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories; on the issue of discrimination and intolerance against Muslims and on the issue of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar,” Madani said.

The commission also established four working groups to address these issues in an effective and sustained fashion: on Palestine, on the Rights of Women and of the Child, on Islamophobia and Muslim minorities, and on Right to Development. It also created an ad hoc working group to establish a proper framework for interaction between the IPHRC and member states’ human rights institutions and civil society organizations.

Source: Arab News

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Statement by His Excellency the Secretary General at the 3rd Istanbul Process Meeting on the follow-up of Implementation of HRC Resolution 16/18

Posted by Human Rights in Islamic Countries on June 21, 2013


Date: 20/06/2013

Geneva, Switzerland
(19 – 21 June 2013)

Excellencies,
Distinguished Panelists,
Dear guests and colleagues,

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you all to this 3rd Istanbul Process Meeting on the follow-up and Implementation of Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18 on Combating Incitement to violence, and Intolerance based on religion or belief.

I am grateful to all participants for their attendance, and particularly the distinguished panelists for sharing their valuable time and expertise. I would also like to thank all the esteemed State representatives and high officials from the UN and other international organizations for their participation. Let me also convey profound gratitude towards the esteemed Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, for her keen interest and gracious presence amongst us.

Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Combating discrimination and intolerance forms a most daunting challenge of our times. It constitutes a matter of vital concern at the OIC. Over the past decade, the debate over religious intolerance and its relationship with freedom of expression received greater attention in both the media and political discourse. Unfortunately, notwithstanding the exposure and recognition accorded to the core issue, divergences in approach prevented the enactment of effective and concrete remedial measures at the international level. It was in this context that, highly committed to the matter and determined to reach common ground, the OIC came up with an alternative approach reflected in the Resolution 16/18 on “Combating Intolerance, Negative Stereotyping and Stigmatization of, and Discrimination Incitement to Violence, and Violence Against Persons Based on Religion and Belief”.

The consensual passage of HRC resolution 16/18 in March 2011 has been widely acknowledged as a positive development. It demonstrated OIC’s ability to forge consensus on the most sensitive of issues in contemporary international relations. The resolution codified the eight points identified in my address to the 15th Session of the Human Rights Council in September 2010. These points constitute areas of action at the national and the international levels. I am gratified that they could form the basis of consensus. It afforded the opportunity to focus on the real issues away from the politicization and polarization of a decade.

Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

We did not stop at mere passage of a resolution. 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. Our meeting today is a part of this Process. I appreciate that this Process has come to be recognized as the way forward by all stakeholders. Its merit lies in acceptance as the least common denominator. This approach carries a lot of potential in terms of evolving an international consensus to deal with the matter while addressing genuine concerns of all parties. The real test, however, lies in implementation. The consensus would, otherwise, be fragile. The approach signified by the resolution 16/18 is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end. We need to build on it.

To date, two expert meetings have already been held in the framework of the Istanbul Process in Washington D.C., in December 2011 and the Wilton Park event in London in December 2012. Each of these two experts meetings focused on specific action points contained in Resolution 16/18 with a view to assessing and promoting their implementation. Furthermore, both expert meetings offered significant contributions by first of all maintaining a live debate of ideas and keeping open channels of communications but also by compiling comprehensive reports, containing a set of recommendations and best practices from which all concerned parties can take stalk.

Excellencies,

Distinguished panelists and participants,
This third meeting of “Istanbul Process”, being held before the Geneva based diplomatic community, is of no lesser significance. It has brought the Istanbul Process to where it essentially belongs – the home ground of governing resolution. With the Geneva based experts from Member States and the distinguished panelists and participants in our midst, this meeting is perfectly poised – over the next three days-to address three important points that lie at the heart of the resolution 16/18. This is an opportunity for frank and candid debate particularly on the grey areas characterized by divergence of views. The significance and utility of the Istanbul Process lies in affording a forum for structured and open debate. Such debate must not, however, be sterile. It must generate ideas that can continue to feed the process of building on the consensus.

Let me briefly comment on each of the three substantive sessions.

In the first Session later this afternoon, distinguished panelists would lend the benefit of their perspectives and expert opinion on the importance and urgency of speaking out against intolerance, including advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. International community’s commitment to condemn intolerance and incitement to hatred on religious grounds is surely the most basic and simple step to be taken in implementation of HRC Resolution 16/18. It is essential for such condemnation to be strong, categorical and unified encompassing all aspects of the issue. The key message that must be consistently repeated, and which our meeting should echo loud and clear, is simple. In a world of increasing interconnectivity and multiculturalism, fast flow of information and human migration, Intolerance and incitement are not admissible. They continue to pose a clear and present danger to peace, security and stability at the national, regional and global levels.

The approach signified by resolution 16/18 has indeed been helpful to that end. The Joint Statement issued by the OIC, Arab League, the African Union and the European Union in September 2012 – in response to the reprehensible release of the highly provocative film “innocence of Muslims” on the Internet – forms a case in point. The joint statement condemned a clear act of advocacy to religious hatred that constituted incitement to hostility and violence. It also emphasized the need to respect believers’ legitimate and objective sensitivities with regard to the sanctity of religious figures and symbols, and that, irrespectively of their religious background. It is, of course, regrettable that acts of provocation often lead to violent reactions, which must not be condoned. The international community stands to gain from a unified and even handed approach in this regard.

Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Second Session of the Meeting touches upon a most important element of Resolution 16/18. It is most significantly characterized by divergence of views on the adoption of measures to criminalize incitement to violence based on religion or belief. It needs to be appreciated that while there is clarity, at least in terms of the existing international law, on how to address advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. Progress with regard to concerted international action to that end, however, has been marred by extensive politicization and polarization of the issue.

Let me clearly state that this is a matter of vital concern for OIC. The alternative approach signified by the resolution 16/18 was intended to move beyond the politicization and polarization with regard to content or title of the erstwhile resolution in addressing the real issues on a consensual basis. The increasing trend of Islamophobia is indeed ominous in a globalized world. There has been an alarming increase in intolerance and discrimination against Muslims. It must be appreciated that there is mounting public pressure on OIC Member States to take concrete action. Alarming increase in Islamophobic incidents like the Utoya massacre in Norway, the burning of copies of Quran by the Florida Pastor and release the reprehensible trailer on You tube continue to hurt the religious sentiments of over 1.5 billion Muslims. The political leadership of OIC Member States has been calling for immediate remedial action. It was in this situation that OIC as a responsible International Organization constituted a panel of eminent lawyers and human rights practitioners to examine the issue from the international law perspective. The panel endorsed the 16/18 approach and the Istanbul Process as the avenues for engagement. It was agreed that there is no need to move towards an entirely new legal instrument. The provisions of existing instruments, including articles 19 and 20 of ICCPR, suffice in covering OIC’s concerns. It is the voids or gaps in interpretation, implementation and information that need to be plugged. There are differences that must be ironed out to develop a common understanding. Concerns of all parties must be understood and addressed in evolving a consensual solution. I believe according equal weight to the concerns on both sides could form a good point of departure. The Istanbul Process carries the necessary resilience in this regard. I am confident deliberations at this meeting will make an important contribution.

Distinguished colleagues,

The Third substantive Session at this important meeting would focus on the need to recognize that the open, constructive and respectful debate of ideas, as well as interfaith and intercultural dialogue at the local, national and international levels can play a positive role in combating religious hatred, incitement and violence. This is a very important aspect of the larger discourse that requires careful consideration. I would like to emphasize here, at the outset, that religions are part of international heritage and have all along accommodated critical thinking as an important pillar of human evolution and progress. For instance in Islam, the concept ‘Ijtihad’ forms a dynamic tool of jurisprudence that accommodates dissent and critical thinking. It is duly reflected in the admissibility of the different interpretations. Such dynamism, I believe, is a precondition to the progressive development of all legal systems.

Let us now focus on the word respectful. An open and constructive debate of ideas is indeed useful. It must be upheld as a matter of freedom of opinion and expression. It, however, transforms into a case of incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence when the freedom is abused to denigrate symbols and personalities sacred to one or the other religion. It needs to be understood as a matter of identity. It needs to be acknowledged that people in some parts of the world tend to identify themselves more with a particular religion than elsewhere. It is, therefore, essential to draw a line between free speech and hate speech – Hence the importance of interfaith and intercultural dialogue. OIC was the first to call for such a dialogue in 1998. We have seen that the dialogue has continued for a considerable time without much to show for result. What we need is a movement beyond event based calls towards a serious, structured and result oriented dialogue. Similarly, we could benefit from an integrated approach with regard to international efforts geared towards combating intolerance, discrimination and incitement to hatred. The Istanbul Process, I believe can serve as an avenue for such an integrated approach drawing on and lending a concrete shape to the understandings reached elsewhere.

Excellencies,
Distinguished Guests,

In a world faced with the menace of terrorism, incitement to hatred, discrimination, and violence, cannot and must not be ignored. We would, otherwise, be faced with the unaffordable risk of the agenda hijacked and set by radicals and non-state actors. We need to act to wrest the initiative away from the street to the table of meaningful and result oriented multilateral discourse. Events like this meeting are increasingly important. Our deliberations here must aim at squarely addressing interrelated issues with particular reference to the grey areas. We need to evolve approaches that can remove the gaps in interpretation, implementation or information on a consensual basis. I personally believe and propose that we may look into the prospect of developing soft law that could reflect the common understanding of international community on this important issue. It could be in the form of some principles, guidelines or a declaration. I would like to leave it for the collective wisdom and common understanding of the experts to enlighten us to that end. The Istanbul Process based on the shared objectives reflected in the consensual approach signified by the resolution 16/18 lends me with reason for optimism in this regard.

I thank you all and wish you success in the important deliberations over the next three days.

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Statement Of H. E. Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary General Of The OIC At The 3rd Meeting Of The Group Of Friends Of The Syrian People

Posted by Human Rights in Islamic Countries on July 20, 2012


Bismillahi Arrahmani Arrahim
In the Name of God, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful

H. E. Mr. Laurent Fabius, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of the Republic of France

Honorable Ministers,

Distinguished Heads of Delegation

Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honor and privilege for me to address the 3rd meeting of the Group of Friends of the Syrian People convened at the beautiful city of Paris to discuss the situation in Syria and find ways and means to save the Syrian people and end its suffering and act together in order to stop the bloodshed which caused more than 15000 deaths.

At the very outset, I would like to seize this opportunity to thank the French Government for convening the important meeting and for the excellent arrangements and hospitality accorded to all delegations.

Honorable Ministers,
Distinguished delegates,

In spite of sincere efforts from the international community to resolve the Syrian crisis, I have no doubt that you share my deep concern and profound pain at what the situation there has turned into, with the ongoing bloodshed, the killing of innocent lives including children and women and the large scale destruction of homes and infrastructure. As we gather here today to examine this deplorable situation, we are reminded of the calamities endured by a people steeped in history who have suffered all kinds of killing, mutilation, torture and dispersion as a result of the mindless violence visited upon them, already claiming the violence. Moreover, the current situation could be an ominous portend of the breakout of a civil war that might crush even more thousands of innocent victims, with ripple effects reaching even beyond Syria, to all the countries of the region. Our duty now commands that we extend our urgent succor to the victims of the violence.

In this respect, I have already issued a call, less than a month ago, for an end to the killing in Syria, a call which takes root in the precepts of our noble faith that insist on the protection of human life, enjoins its preservation and prohibits the killing of innocents or their subjections to any harm.

Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Since the onset of this crisis, we made a point of abiding by the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of a Member State of the OIC, and of respecting its sovereignty and territorial integrity, a principled stand which was coupled by our keenness to preserve Syria’s safety, security and stability. However, the degrading security situation and worsened oppressive practices with the killing of large numbers of children and women have played in favor of internationalization of the crisis.

Syria, being an important member of the OIC, the OIC sought to contain the crisis before it overspills. Indeed, I had talks and contacts with the authorities in Damascus. I expressed my concern over the potential spread of the crisis, and encouraged the Syrian authorities to see to the early introduction of the announced reform. Then I dispatched a special envoy to Damascus in May 2011 to deliver a written message from me to President Bashar Al-Assad. In my messages, I expressed our profound sadness at the continued escalation and aggravation of violent practices, and stressed the need for a commitment to protect civilians, respect human rights, activate the principles of good governance, implement the reforms promised by the Syrian leadership and resolve the Syrian crisis through peaceful means. Subsequently, the OIC issued a number of communiqués calling for de-escalation and negotiated settlement

The OIC has never abandoned its fixed stand regarding the repercussions and developments in Syria. Since the outbreak of this crisis, the OIC General Secretariat has issued a number of statements reiterating its stand in favor of resolving the Syrian crisis through putting an immediate end to the violence and bloodshed.

Honorable Ministers,
Distinguished Participants,

The OIC Executive Committee, which held a first meeting at the Ministerial level on 30 November 2011, urged the Syrian Government to fulfill its commitments to reform and to respond to the legitimate aspirations and demands of Syrian people. The meeting called on all Syrian stakeholders to shun the path of violence and resort to the peaceful means of dialogue and negotiations to settle the crisis.

In the face of the failure to achieve any progress in the attempts to steer towards a serious peaceful dialogue and continued killings and destructions, the OIC declared its support for the solution adopted by the League of Arab States and for Dr. Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan which, has so far met with no positive response.

Distinguished delegates,

The OIC convened the Second Executive Committee Meeting at the Ministerial level on the 24 June 2012 at its Headquarters. The meeting strongly condemned the continuing bloodshed by all parties in Syria, underlined the primary responsibility of the Syrian Government in the continuation of violence and expressed its serious concern at the deteriorating situation in the country. In this connection, it called for an immediate end to the violence and for full respect for Islamic values and human rights as well as for saving the country from the risk of a full civil war with grave consequences on the Syrian people and the region. The Meeting strongly urged the Syrian Government to immediately end the use of excessive force against Syrian nationals and to respond to the legitimate aspirations and demands of its citizens; it further expressed its support to the ongoing diplomatic initiatives to end violence in Syria.

The meeting recommended to the next CFM meeting which will be held in Djibouti the suspension of the membership of the Syrian Arab Republic from the OIC. The Meeting called on the UNSC to take its full responsibility to put an end to the ongoing violence and bloodshed in Syria through a durable political solution and urged the Council to consider the situation in Syria under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. In addition, the meeting strongly deplored the shooting down by Syria of a Turkish military plane, and considers it an action which poses a grave threat to the regional security and stability.

Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

To conclude, I wish to call upon the international community to work more actively towards ending the bloodshed and reversing the ordeal of the Syrian people. I wish our deliberations every success in evolving specific recommendations which will contribute to finding an immediate solution to the grave Syrian crisis.

I thank you all for your kind attention.

 

 

 

Posted in Human Rights and Islam, Other Rights, Syiria | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »