Organization of Islamic Cooperation: Institutional Efforts to Address Islamophobia

JEDDAH, UAE: As part of the efforts of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to deal with the file of Muslim communities and societies in non-Member States and defend their identity and rights, the OIC's Ad Hoc Ministerial Committee on Accountability for Human Rights Violations against the Rohingya will hold a virtual meeting on Tuesday October 20, 2020. This meeting will follow up the case filed against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

It is noteworthy that the OIC, since its inception, has accorded profound attention to the escalation of the phenomenon of Islamophobia, as the situation of Muslim societies in non-Member States has remained on its agenda. The OIC's Charter stipulated the establishment of a special department for minority affairs to follow up on the developments in those societies, inform states of the same, issue appropriate statements, and address states on the measures they should take to preserve the rights of Muslims, protect their beliefs, and maintain the inviolability of their beliefs and symbols. The General Secretariat, through the Islamophobia Observatory, issues periodic reports on the state of the phenomenon and makes appropriate recommendations to Member States in the OIC's Conferences of Foreign Ministers (CFM). It also publishes its reports on the OIC's website in the three official languages.

The worrying trend of Islamophobia is on the rise, not only in Western countries, but also in many other parts of the world largely due to several identified factors, including the growing ideologies of the far right, refugee crises, immigration, misperceptions among followers of different religions, and provocative discourse by some media outlets. In reaction, there is extremist discourse and violent behaviors by some extremist Islamist groups, which have led to heinous crimes in the name of Islam thuscreating a reverse symbiotic link between the phenomena of terrorism and extremism on the one hand, and Islamophobia on the other.

The OIC has undertaken a prominent role towards several critical issues caused by Islamophobia.It condemned and adopted resolutions at the ministerial level regarding the armed attack on the Al-Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, sent a high-ranking delegation to attend the memorial service of the Muslim victims there, and maintained its interest in this issue on all levels. It also addressed the countries in which some far-right extremists burned copies of the Noble Qur’an and condemned the re-publication of the offensive cartoons ofProphet Muhammad (SAWS). The OIC's approachhas always tried to win rational political and religious leaders in those countries rather than antagonizing them believing that facing this phenomenon requires international cooperation, not individual populist stances that would harm Muslims in non-Member States.

Being aware of the growing phenomenon, the General Secretariat has continued to take many measures at the level of Muslim Minorities Section, the Islamophobia Observatory, the Voice of Wisdom Center, the International Islamic Fiqh Academy (IIFA), and the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC), including but not limited to the following:

Continue to monitore the phenomenon of Islamophobia and presenting indicators and facts to Member States through the report of the Secretary-General and the report of the Islamophobia Observatory, and by proposing relevant draft resolutions and following up on their implementation.

The evaluation of the Islamophobia Observatory, which has been in existence for nearly thirteen years. During the Third Extraordinary Islamic Summit in Makkah Al-Mukarramah in 2005, Member States assigned the Islamophobia Observatory to monitor the phenomenon of Islamophobia. The Thirty-Fourth Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) Session in Islamabad in May 2007 asserted that through tasking the Observatory to take the necessary measures to combat the phenomenon, initiate a structured dialogue to demonstrate the true values ​​of Islam, and enable Islamic countries to face the contemporary resulting challenges.

The Secretary-General held meetings with envoys of non-Member States and considered the conditions of Muslim communities and societies therein a permanent item in those meetings.

The Secretary-General offered in several meetings with the European Union and representatives of some non-Member States that the OIC should play a role in bridging the relationship between the official bodies in these countries and Muslim societies when there is a need for that.However, he has not yet received responses from those countries.

Contacting the foreign ministers in the countries where the phenomenon is spreading, whenever the need arises. The Secretary-General met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of New Zealand after the terrorist attack in Christchurch.The OIC honored Naila Hassan, the Superintendent of New Zealand Police, at the OIC's Festival on the sidelines of the celebration of the 50thAnniversary of its founding in 2019.

The issuance of statements against everything that offends Islam and Muslims' belief, symbols, and sacred symbols, most recently its strong condemnation of re-publishing the cartoons offensive to the Prophet(SAWS).

In a legal civilized initiative, the OIC filed a case on behalf of the Rohingya Muslims at the ICJ in The Hague, which issued a judgment, the first of its kind, to redress Muslims in Myanmar.The OIC is still following up the implementation of the judgment at theICJ through the OIC's Ad Hoc Ministerial Committee on Accountability for Human Rights Violations against the Rohingya chaired by the Republic of The Gambia.

The Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC)is following up with the UN Human Rights Council the implementation of Resolution 16/18 on combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence, and violence against persons based on religion or belief.

The OIC’s Voice of Wisdom Center has persistently confronted the phenomenon of Islamophobia through the content it broadcasts on social networks and targets hundreds of thousands of followers.This aims to spread the moderate message of Islam, encourage the values ​​of coexistence, and defuse the justifications for the opposite extremism that provokes Muslims' feelings by insulting Islam and its symbols.