European-Islamic media forum calls for clampdown on hate speech in Western press

Maha Mustafa Akeel, the information department director of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, speaks at the first Islamic-European forum in Brussels. SPA
Updated 30 June 2018

European-Islamic media forum calls for clampdown on hate speech in Western press

  • The OIC is in the process of establishing a global press award for journalists who contribute to the promotion of inter-cultural dialogue and tolerance
  • The OIC has adopted many resolutions that call for clear and tangible measures to address Islamophobia and counter-terrorism resulting from it

JEDDAH: The first Islamic-European forum for examining ways of cooperation to curb hate speech in the media began on Friday at the Press Club Brussels Europe, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

During the opening session, the head of the Council of Journalists Union in Brussels, Peter Knappen, spoke about the importance of press freedom and stressed that it should be used responsibly and follow ethical and professional values.
Director of the information department of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Maha Mustafa Aqeel explained that the forum is part of the OIC’s media strategy to counter Islamophobia.
“Our strategy focuses on interacting with the media, academics, and experts on various relevant topics, in addition to engaging with western governments to raise awareness, support the efforts of Muslim civil society bodies in the West, and engage the latter in developing plans and programs to counter Islamophobia,” she said.
Aqeel said that, since 2005, the OIC has adopted many resolutions that call for clear and tangible measures to address Islamophobia and counter-terrorism resulting from it. These efforts have included establishing the Islamophobia Observatory, which issues an annual report on countering Islamophobia.
She also pointed out that the OIC has made efforts to engage the media, western governments, civil society and regional and international organizations such as the European Union and UNESCO in order to fight Islamophobia.
Aqeel explained that the OIC established a ministerial Contact Group of European Muslims in 2016 to communicate more closely and regularly with officials and communities in Europe, in addition to establishing a correspondence center to respond to the arguments and fatwas of extremist groups.
“The OIC is in the process of establishing a global press award for journalists who contribute to the promotion of inter-cultural dialogue and tolerance,” she added.
Aqeel said that the two-day forum would explore ways to establish cooperation between media professionals from OIC member states and the European Union to help curb hate speech, stereotyping and fake news, “all of which negatively impact society and provoke intolerance.”
The forum’s sessions discussed press freedom from legal and religious perspectives, and introduced attendees to the contents of the OIC Media Strategy to Counter Islamophobia and ISESCO’s Program for Training Media Professionals on Redressing Stereotypes about Islam and Muslims.


Uthman Taha: ‘I wish the verses about heaven would never end’

Taha is the official calligrapher of the Qur’an at the King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an in Madinah. The 86-year-old is still in the recovery phase, his wife said, and has been advised to rest and to avoid stress. (Supplied)
Updated 15 August 2020

Uthman Taha: ‘I wish the verses about heaven would never end’

  • The Syrian Qur’an writer, regarded as one of the world’s finest calligraphers, is on the road to recovery following his recent hospital admission

MAKKAH: Syrian calligrapher Uthman Taha is in good health and recovering at home after a 13-day stay in a hospital where he was treated for what he and his wife initially suspected to be the novel coronavirus COVID-19, although he ultimately tested negative for the virus.

Taha is the official calligrapher of the Qur’an at the King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an in Madinah. His wife, Fatimah Umm Al-Nour, said Taha had a chest infection during his stay at the hospital and stressed that he had been “careful and took all the precautionary measures” and that he had not left the house for five months before his hospital visit.
The 86-year-old calligrapher is still in the recovery phase, his wife said, and has been advised to rest and to avoid stress. She praised his doctors, who have consistently checked in with the couple since Taha returned home, and added that she has tested negative for COVID-19 too.
Taha is regarded as one of the most skilled calligraphers in the Arab world. Al-Nour told Arab News that he continues to practice calligraphy daily.
Taha, who has written the Qur’an 12 times at the King Fahd Complex, was born in 1934 and attended school in Aleppo. His father was also a skilled calligrapher, who used the Ruq’ah script, and Taha studied with several of Syria’s finest calligraphers including Mohammed Al-Mawlawi, Mohammed Al-Khatib, Hussein Al-Turki, and Ibrahim Al-Rifai.
When he moved to Damascus for university, Taha began to learn other scripts, including Thuluth, Naskh (in which he is now considered a master), and Farsi. He received his calligraphy certificate from master calligrapher Hamed Al-Amadi in 1973.
He arrived in Saudi Arabia in 1988, and began work as a calligrapher at the King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an in Madinah. He writes the Qur’an in the Ottoman script, and copies of his work have been distributed throughout the Islamic world.
What makes Taha’s work unique is that each page of the Qur’an that he writes concludes at the end of a verse. The secret, he explains, is to simplify the words — which is the origin of the Kufic script in which the Qur’an has been written since the days of Prophet Muhammad’s companions — keeping the letters close to one another.
Taha spent years perfecting his technique of evenly distributing the words in every line so that the space between the lettering is consistent throughout every page of every book, which means eliminating many of the script combinations that make such consistency difficult.
He explained to Arab News that when he is working on his Qur’an calligraphy he is transported: “When I begin writing the Holy Qur’an, I resort to solitude to allow myself to be invested in the verses and their interpretation, forgetting about the world around me,” he said. “I wish the verses about Jannah (heaven) would never end, and my hand trembles when I write the verses about Jahannam (hell).”