Written by Ryan Mauro
From December 12 to 14, the State Department is hosting the Organization of the Islamic Conference, a body of 57 Muslim countries that presents itself as a representative of all Muslims. Its top objective is eliminating “Islamophobia” by promoting legislation to punish those who criticize the religion or uses language is deems offensive.
This week, the OIC is in Washington D.C., enjoying the company of the State Department. Sources within the OIC told the International Islamic News Agencythat the event’s objective is to work on “developing a legal basis for the U.N. Human Rights Council’s resolution which [will] help in enacting domestic laws for the countries involved in the issue, as well as formulating international laws preventing inciting hatred resulting from the continued defamation of religions.”
The conference is closed to the public and free of transparency. Nina Shea, an official with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, was only permitted to attend the opening and closing sessions. She is forbidden from providing quotes or writing about the statements and actions of specific attendees.
She writes that one speaker: “reassured the audience, which was packed with diplomats from around the world, that the Obama administration is working diligently to prosecute American Islamophobes and is transforming the U.S. Justice Department into the conscience of the nation, though it could no doubt learn a thing or two from the assembled delegates on other ways to stop persistent religious intolerance in America.”
Shea and Paul Marshall explained in a recent Wall Street Journal editorial that the OIC’s charter dedicates the body to “combat defamations of Islam” and it openly lobbies countries around the world to enact “deterrent punishments” to achieve this. They write that in 2009, the OIC’s International Islamic Fiqh Academy called for international laws to defend the “interests and values of [Islamic] society,” including punishments for those that talk about why they left Islam.
The leaders of the OIC are not coy about what they seek. Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu says “no one has the right to insult another for their beliefs” and Chairman Abdoulaye Wade says, “I don’t think freedom of expression should mean freedom from blasphemy.”
Presidential frontrunner Newt Gingrich slammed the administration during the last debate for the meeting, saying that the U.S. government shouldn’t work with “those who would censor the world on behalf of Islam.” Representative Ted Poe wrote a letter to Secretary of State Clinton on December 8 asking her to cancel the meeting because of the OIC’s attacks on free speech.
“The OIC’s charter, however, clearly is against this most basic human right, and we ask that you use all the resources at our disposal to protect freedom of speech around the world,” Poe wrote.
To its credit, the Obama administration successfully fought against an OIC-backed resolution in the U.N. Human Rights Council that would have called for outlawing “defamation of religions.” However, the reaching out to the OIC helps empower an organization whose agenda directly conflicts with Western values and interests.
The hypocrisy of the OIC is plain for all to see. While Ihsanoglu claims that “Islamophobia is reaching the level of the anti-Semitism of the 1930s,” the organization has never condemned the anti-Semitic preaching of extremist clerics or leaders like Ahmadinejad. It doesn’t even take a firm stance on terrorism.
Its 1999 Convention to Combat Terrorism stated, “Peoples struggle including armed struggle against foreign occupation, aggression, colonialism, and hegemony, aimed at liberation and self-determination in accordance with the principles of international law shall not be considered a terrorist crime.” This is virtually every single justification for virtually every single act of terrorism.
In 2002, the OIC issued its “Declaration on International Terrorism.” It was hailed as the Muslim world’s repudiation of terrorism, but it included a line legitimizing terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas: “We reject any attempt to associate Islamic states or Palestinian and Lebanese resistance with terrorism.”
The blasphemy laws and “anti-Islamophobia” laws promoted by OIC are simply a means to stop criticism of Islam and especially, critics of radical Islam—a term that the OIC would surely love to make unspeakable. As Shea and Marshall point out, such laws have been used to oppress Muslim reformers promoting women’s rights and relations with Israel. One of the best examples would be Asia Bibi in Pakistan. She has been sentenced to death for criticizing Islam to her co-workers after she converted to Christianity.
In the West, the OIC and its allies promote such legislation as being part of a fight against “hate speech.” This was the tactic used to prosecute Geert Wildersfor his harsh condemnations of Islam. In the U.S., critics of radical Islam are regularly derided as being hateful bigots and “Islamophobes.” Since it’s impossible to prosecute these “Islamophobes,” they are instead vilified in the media and sometimes, sued. A former imam says he was at a meeting with theInternational Institute of Islamic Thought, a Muslim Brotherhood front, when the term “Islamophobe” was invented. He said that the group was inspired by how the term “homophobe” had been used against critics of homosexuality.
It seems unthinkable that that perceived insults against Islam could become punishable in the West, but that’s exactly what happened to Wilders in the Netherlands and he was a major political leader. In Europe, there is an umbrella group called the European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion that is pressuring governments to “take all necessary measures in their legal systems to ensure a safe environment from Islamophobic harassment, violence and discrimination,” including in the media and on the Internet.
In the U.S., Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the former spokesman for the Ground Zero Mosque project, has spoken in favor of restricting free speech when it (in his view) is an attack on Islam.
“I believe that the insulting or mocking of others’ religious symbols, icons, prophets, etc. should not fall within the realm of free speech,” Imam Rauf is recorded as saying.
His wife, Daisy Khan, believes the same. She took part in a 2006 debate where she was against the motion of “Freedom of expression must include the right to offend.” She said that “Muslims continually face xenophobia” and offered the Danish cartoons mocking Mohammed as an example of speech that should not be allowed. She argued that such offensive speech was “fueling extremist sentiments.”
The OIC is not an organization that is unequivocally against terrorism or truly dedicated to modernity and freedom. The OIC must be treated for what it is: An obstacle, not an asset, in the war against radical Islam.