OIC chief: Global action to fight Islamophobia needed

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Author: Jeddah: P.K. Abdul Ghafour ARAB NEWS STAFF

Saturday 5 May 2012

The secretary-general of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation has urged the international community to take effective action to prevent growing Islamophobia or enmity toward Islam and Muslims all over the world.

"Islamophobia is on the rise. In fact, it has entered
the third phase," said Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu in a statement on the occasion
of the publication of Amnesty International’s report titled “Choice and
Prejudice: Discrimination Against Muslims in Europe."
The OIC chief also blamed Muslim extremists for the growing
hatred against Islam and Muslims. “These extremists present a wrong picture of
Islam through their negative practices that have nothing to do with noble
Islamic values and teachings,” he said.
Speaking about the various phases of Islamophobia, Ihsanoglu
said in the first phase, enemies used freedom of expression as a pretext to
attack Islam and Muslims and it appeared in the form of cartoons denigrating
the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
“During the second phase, there were attempts to
institutionalize hatred against Islam and Muslims. In Switzerland, for example,
the government conducted a referendum on constructing minarets on mosques,
which resulted in banning minarets.”
The OIC recently announced its plan to establish a satellite
channel and promote investment in the media to fight Islamophobia and enhance
exchange of information among the member states.
The OIC dismissed suggestions that Islamophobia is equal to
classical racism and xenophobia, saying that it is mainly based on
stigmatization of a religion and its followers. "As such, Islamophobia is
an affront to the human rights and dignity of Muslims," the organization
said.
According to a Amnesty report, which was published recently,
Muslims in Europe face discrimination in education, employment and religious
freedom. The report indicated that rightist parties were using Islamophobia to
grab political power.
“Muslim women are being denied jobs and girls prevented from
attending regular classes just because they wear traditional forms of dress,
such as the head scarf. Men can be dismissed for having beards," said
Marco Perolini, Amnesty's expert on discrimination.
"Rather than countering these prejudices, political
parties and public officials are all too often pandering to them in their quest
for votes," he pointed out. The report details the problem with a focus on
Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland.
European Union legislation "prohibiting discrimination
on the ground of religion or belief in the area of employment seems to be
toothless across Europe, as we observe a higher rate of unemployment among
Muslims, and especially Muslim women of foreign origin," Perolini said.
The right to establish places of worship "is being
restricted in some European countries, despite state obligations to protect,
respect and fulfill this right," Amnesty said.
Muslims in the Catalonian region of Spain must pray outdoors
"because existing prayer rooms are too small to accommodate all the
worshippers and requests to build mosques are being disputed as incompatible
with respecting Catalan traditions and culture."

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