VIENNA – The Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, said that respect for human rights, democratic pluralism, rule of law, transparency and accountability are universal values, and they are the product of the collective wisdom, conscience and progress of mankind.
Addressing a two-day symposium on tolerance in Vienna Monday, he said that no single culture can claim sole ownership of such values.
Ihsanoglu pointed out that self-fulfilling prophecies like clash of civilizations have fueled divisions, misperceptions and apprehensions between the West and the Muslim world.
In his view, the main problem emanates from the lack of knowledge of “the other,” and the negative propaganda perpetrated in the absence of knowing the other side or knowing the other side in the wrong context.
He underlined Islamophobia as a contemporary manifestation of racism.
“Islamophobia leads to hate crimes,” said Ihsanoglu, “and as such, it generates fear, feelings of stigmatization, marginalization, alienation and rejection. The net result is heightened anxiety and rising violence.
Islamophobia is also an assault on people’s identity and their human dignity.”
The Secretary General listed some actions that should be done to correct this situation, foremost of which is for Western countries to recognize the problem and adopt a multifaceted approach.
He also recommended taking account of the importance of the intellectual front and devising sound strategies to tackle the issue in the areas of value systems and perceptions. The West must define hate crimes broadly and address the information deficit as well as enact adequate legislation and implement this legislation effectively. In conjunction with national legislation, they should also implement international commitments and agreed norms.
He said that Western countries should help to strengthen Muslim communities and civil society organizations and try to enable them to work with local and national authorities.
In this context, he informed the gathering of OIC’s endeavors, which are guided by the 10 Year Program of Action that underscores the importance of intercultural and interfaith dialogue toward achieving peace, security and stability in a globalized world. These include establishing the Islamophobia Observatory in the OIC General Secretariat in order to draw attention and address the increasing phenomenon of Islamophobia and appointing a Special Envoy on this matter.
OIC’s efforts to foster tolerance and understanding were crowned with the adoption of its initiative, Resolution 16/18, in the UN Human Rights Council.
The eight points proposed by Secretary General Ihsanoglu in the 15th Session of the HRC in Geneva in 2011, which outlined a new approach towards evolving a consensus against incitement to violence and intolerance on religious ground. – SG