OIC chief says new anti-Islamophobia approach needed



JEDDAH: P.K. ABDUL GHAFOUR

Published — Sunday 20 January 2013

Last update 20 January 2013 5:48 pm

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The Feb. 6-7 Islamic summit in Cairo will deal with major challenges facing the Muslim world including the Syrian crisis, the Palestinian issue and Rohingya and Mali issues, said Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
“The Cairo summit is significant as it comes at a crucial time and will deal with major challenges facing the Muslim world,” Ihsanoglu told Arab News in an exclusive interview at OIC headquarters in Jeddah yesterday. He said all OIC countries would attend the summit.
He said the Cairo summit, which has been delayed by two years because of political developments in the region, is timely. “During the last two years many things have taken place in the Muslim world. There were political uprisings, the downfall of dictatorial regimes and the democratization process that has been going through difficult times,” Ihsanoglu said.
He said the two-day summit would discuss the war in Syria, the new fighting in Mali and other challenging issues. “We expect to have clear guidelines and a unified position on all these issues from the summit.”
The OIC chief said Islamophobia would also figure high on the summit agenda. “We are facing new threats of Islamophobia and we need to have a new approach in dealing with such cases,” he pointed out.
Ihsanoglu, who has played a big role in dealing with Islamophobia in the West, said: “We have managed to get important diplomatic successes, through UN Human Rights Council and UN General Assembly. We have managed to convince Western countries to cooperate with us and agree on a consensual text dealing with stereotyping and attacks on Islam and the Prophet (peace be upon him).”
He said the OIC is now in the process of devising legal instruments to deal with Islamophobia. “At the same time we continue our efforts to mobilize international support to deal with the issue. We want to mobilize the highest possible political support not only from OIC countries but also from the West,” he added.
He also spoke about OIC’s efforts to protect Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar who are facing ethnic cleansing. “I have received an invitation from the Myanmar government and would like to visit the country before the Cairo summit and I am waiting for their reply,” he added. A fact-finding OIC mission visited Myanmar last September to investigate the violence against Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine region.
Asked about OIC’s efforts to solve the Syrian conflict, the secretary-general said: “We are cooperating with the international community. We support the plan of UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and we are looking forward to a peaceful solution."
Ihsanoglu, who took charge as the ninth secretary-general of the 57-member organization in January 2005, has been instrumental in strengthening the OIC with the support of member countries.
He coordinated the drafting and implementation of a reform program for the OIC aiming to increase its efficiency and effectiveness. The reform program’s components included the "Ten-Year Program of Action to Face the Challenges of Twenty-first Century" and a revised OIC Charter, which was adopted by the 11th Islamic Summit in 2008.
Ihsanoglu gave the credit of OIC’s successes to his team. “It is the outcome of a teamwork and I am blessed to have very good colleagues, particularly from the younger generation. They are working very well.”
He also spoke about the marvelous design for OIC’s new headquarters in Jeddah. “It is the outcome of an international competition. About 100 design firms from all over the world took part in the contest and we selected the best with the help of an expert jury. I am sure it will become an icon of Jeddah,” he said.
The OIC has received construction permit for the new headquarters. It was handed to Ihsanoglu by Jeddah Mayor Hani Abu Ras. Covering an area of 91,500 sq. meters, the new cone-shaped building will be located in Khuzam Gardens. It will have a big conference hall.
During the meeting Ihsanoglu and Abu Ras witnessed a detailed presentation of the project and its specifications. They also viewed video clips and an explanation of the project, delivered by Zuhair Faiz Company for Architectural Consultancies.
The secretary-general thanked Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for his support to the project, which will become an important edifice in the Islamic world. He also thanked the Saudi government for its continued support to OIC’s activities.

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