JEDDAH: The Organization of Islamic Cooperation convened an open-ended extraordinary meeting of its executive committee at its headquarters in Jeddah on Tuesday.
The meeting was held to express the organization’s common stance against the recent desecration of the Holy Qur’an in Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark as well as to discuss possible actions that the OIC might take against the perpetrators of the Islamophobic attacks.
The incidents occurred earlier this month, when Rasmus Paludan, a far-right activist who holds both Danish and Swedish citizenship, received permission from the police to stage a protest outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm, where on Jan. 21 he burned the Qur’an. Days later, Edwin Wagensveld, Dutch leader of the far-right Pegida movement in the Netherlands, tore pages out of a copy of the Qur’an near the Dutch Parliament and stomped on them.
In response, several regional and international organizations, including the OIC, issued statements strongly denouncing the incident.
During the meeting, Saleh Hamad Al-Suhaibani, Saudi representative to the OIC, said that the Kingdom strongly condemns the desecration of the Qur’an, which urges love, goodness, justice and equality.
The incidents occurred earlier this month, when Rasmus Paludan, a far-right activist who holds both Danish and Swedish citizenship, received permission from the police to stage a protest outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm, where on Jan. 21 he burned the Qur’an. Days later, Edwin Wagensveld, Dutch leader of the far-right Pegida movement in the Netherlands, tore pages out of a copy of the Qur’an near the Dutch parliament and stomped on them.
The Kingdom rejects all extremism and hatred, he added, and instead calls for the dissemination of Islamic values based on dialogue and coexistence.
“These despicable acts blatantly contradict the human, moral and religious principles and values of all nations who respect peace and coexistence. The repetition of the action raises many questions about the complacency of some governments in curbing the phenomenon of Islamophobia and their failure to take the necessary measures to stop provocations and punish the perpetrators under the pretext of freedom of expression,” he said.
Islamophobia is defined as the fear or hatred of Islam, which often translates into intolerant gestures, deliberate discrimination and outright attacks against Muslims.
OIC Secretary-General Hissein Brahim Taha said that these actions are not simply irresponsible but rather criminal acts targeting Muslims. “The governments concerned must take strict punitive measures, especially given the frequency of such provocative acts by the same people,” he said.
“The outrageous actions…are further evidence of the alarming levels reached by the phenomenon of Islamophobia, hate crimes, intolerance and xenophobia.
“This makes us believe that we must take urgent measures to prevent the recurrence of such provocative incidents in the future.”
Taha said that a strong message must be sent to all governments, institutions and individuals to clarify that these actions are not justifiable under freedom of expression. He highlighted that many international laws, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, clearly stipulate that freedom of expression is not an unlimited right, as it involves special duties and responsibilities.
Mehmet Metin Eker, the permanent representative of Turkey to OIC, said that Turkey strongly condemns the recent aggressions against the Holy Qur’an.
“Unfortunately, the failure of the Swedish authorities to take the necessary precautions against the attack on the Holy Qur’an on Jan. 21 has encouraged several attacks in the Netherlands and Denmark afterward. We also expect the Swedish, Dutch and Danish authorities to take the necessary measures against the perpetrators of these hate crimes,” he said.
Hatred against Islam has reached an alarming level in many parts of the world, particularly in Europe, he said, citing statistics related to violent, Islamophobic acts by European activists since 2019.
“We observe with great concern, how far-right politicians use anti-Islam and xenophobic rhetoric...Resorting to such populism paves the way for racist attacks against Muslims,” Eker said, referencing the massacre in New Zealand in 2019, in which 51 Muslims were killed in a terrorist attack on two mosques.
Eker added: “In this context, an important measure to be taken within the OIC, we think, is to strengthen the Islamophobia observatory in order to more efficiently engage with international partners, as well as better follow-up efforts in Western countries to confront rising Islamophobia.”
The OIC condemns attempts to spread ideas that mock, insult or defame holy books, symbols, and sacred figures of any religion. The organization will work to raise concerns whenever the Holy Qur’an is violated or the sacred figures of Islam are insulted with the intention of inciting hatred against the religion or its followers.