Saudi Gazette report
JEDDAH – Islamophobia has grown from an initial phase where it was defended in the name of freedom of expression as seen in the case of the blasphemous Danish cartoon to the stage where it has been institutionalized and politicized, said the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu here Monday.
He was addressing the “The Acts of Defamation Against Islam: Dimensions of Clash and Prospects of Coexistence between Islam and the West” symposium at OIC headquarters.
In the first phase, the world was in denial about Islamophobia. But in the second phase when Islamophobia took on a legal face as seen in the ban on minarets in Switzerland and on mosques in some European countries, there began to be some acknowledgment of the existence of Islamophobia, said the OIC secretary general.
In the current phase Islamophobia is used for political purposes as seen in the recent gains made by extreme rightists in countries like Holland and France, and people have started speaking up about it. This was evident during the recent blasphemous film issue when US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke out strongly against the film.
Ihsanoglu said that OIC has established an Islamophobia Observatory and publishes reports on the issue. Its fifth report was issued two weeks ago.
Addressing the symposium Ambassador Mohammad Tayeb, Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs branch in Makkah region, said that historical wars such as the Crusades, European colonization, the Palestinian cause, secularism, and failure to understand Islam have contributed to the emergence of the term Islamophobia.
The Western media has also played a major role in advocating this concept, which refers to fear and hatred toward the Muslim people.
US Consul General Anne S. Casper said: “We consider the best antidote to offensive speech to be more speech. I know that may not be easy for some to hear or to accept, but perhaps it is best understood within a broader context.”
“In the United States, when something offensive is published, religious communities peacefully raise awareness about misrepresentations of their faith and educate society about their beliefs in order to address the underlying causes of intolerance. That is why Muslim Americans, for example, have hosted dozens of seminars on Islam,” she said.
The consul general said that Islam is today, and has always been a part of the United States of America.
Many immigrants, including millions of Muslims, came to its shores over the centuries seeking the right to practice their own faith.
The symposium was also addressed by Sergei Kuznetsov, Consul General of the Russian Federation in Jeddah.