JEDDAH: Muslim leaders on Thursday demanded the introduction of an international law to criminalize all acts of Islamophobia.
Announcing plans for the celebration of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) 50th anniversary in Jeddah on Monday, its secretary-general called for a global crackdown on individuals or groups responsible for “insulting religions or prophets.”
Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen told Arab News: “There are laws against anti-Semitism and racism. So, we request a law against mocking religions.”
In a report released by the OIC, he said that modernization and the Internet revolution had turned the world into a “global village” where religions and cultures should coexist, and races and nations must live side by side as neighbors.
“Islamophobia is a sentiment of excessive fear against Islam that is transformed into acts of intolerance and discriminations against Muslims and even violent crimes against people with Islamic attires.”
A press conference held at the Jeddah headquarters of the OIC, to reveal the organization’s anniversary plans, was attended by Al-Othaimeen along with the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ deputy minister for public diplomacy, Dr. Saud Kateb, assistant secretary-general for humanitarian, social and cultural affairs, Tariq Ali Bakhit, and the assistant secretary-general for political affairs, Yousef Al-Dhobei.
Al-Othaimeen said the OIC had witnessed a remarkable expansion since it was founded half a century ago, working in many areas including backing for the Palestinian cause and the international fight against terrorism and extremism.
He pointed out that the organization had established the “Voice of Wisdom,” an electronic platform to combat hate speech on social media.
A host of foreign ministers of OIC member states are expected to attend the anniversary celebrations to be staged under the slogan, “United for Peace and Development.” The gathering will include an accompanying festival and symposium reviewing the most important political, economic and cultural issues currently being worked on by the organization, and a number of prominent Islamic figures will also be honored during the event.
Kateb highlighted the goals of the OIC, especially the Palestinian cause and spreading the culture of unity and solidarity among the Islamic community, and he praised the Kingdom’s efforts to support the achievement of its objectives.
On Islamophobia, Al-Othaimeen said that the behaviors of some Muslims who did not truly represent Islam, had brought prejudice to the surface.
“Islamic moderation centers and entities concerned with fighting extremism are reflecting the true image of Islam. When a successful Muslim physician, businessperson or engineer is found anywhere in the world, this person does not only represent himself but Islam in general. These are the good role models we are honored to introduce to the world,” he added.
“The decisions that the OIC works on implementing are basically decided upon by the presidents and leaders of the Muslim world who meet every three years. When they meet and issue a number of declarations, it is then the role of the OIC to put these decisions into effect whether they are cultural, humane, developmental or political.”
The secretary-general added that the real power of the OIC was in the shape of “moral authority.” He noted the “effective spiritual power” of King Salman hosting Muslim leaders in Makkah during the final days of the recent month of Ramadan.
“Any organization would definitely perish if it felt satisfied with what it had achieved. We, in the OIC, are looking forward to achieving more and more.”
Al-Othaimeen pointed out that the OIC regarded the issues of Muslim minorities, extremism and fighting terrorism as key areas for its focus.
“Also, we are highly concerned about the human rights violations against Rohingya Muslims, who were ethnically cleansed and displaced from their country.
“These issues are of great importance, to be worked on in collaboration not only with governments, but also with people and non-profit organizations, to prove to everyone that Islam is the voice of mercy, moderation and coexistence with Muslims and non-Muslims,” he added.