(CNSNews.com)– In a statement marking the tenth anniversary of 9/11, the bloc of Islamic states on Sunday reiterated a stance that has stymied efforts at the United Nations for well over a decade to develop a global convention against terrorism – the insistence that any definition of terrorism should make an exception for “resistance” against foreign occupation.
As long as the loophole exists, critics say, it provides cover for violent attacks by Palestinians against Israelis, by jihadists fighting Indian control of part of disputed Kashmir, and by groups who portray the U.S. and coalition military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan as “occupation.”
Some of the Islamic countries that have themselves suffered the most from terrorism, notably Pakistan, are among the most determined in refusing to back down on the “occupation” exception – even though that stance has since 1996 held up the drive to formulate an international, legally-binding terrorism convention.
On the eve of the 9/11 anniversary, U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said in Australia on Friday he regretted the fact that the goal of a comprehensive convention has not been achieved, attributing the failure to “some disagreement among member states.”
In its 9/11 anniversary statement the 56-country Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said that it “joins the international community in remembering the horrendous and cowardly act of terrorism and the tragic loss of thousands of innocent human lives.”
“The OIC seizes this opportunity to reiterate its firm position of condemning terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and to underscore that terrorism is a repugnant malady that seeks to destroy the fundamental ethos of humanity,” it said.
But the statement then added that the OIC’s position on terrorism is “clearly stated” in a document adopted in 2005, the OIC Ten Year Program of Action.
That document states that the OIC members condemn “terrorism in all its forms, and reject any justification or rationalization for it,” but then adds that they “distinguish it from the legitimate resistance to foreign occupation, which does not sanction the killing of innocent civilians.”
The OIC's 9/11 statement also drew attention to another initiative, the OIC Convention on Combating Terrorism, approved in 1999.
The OIC Convention on Combating Terrorism includes a definition of terrorism. Article One defines the phenomenon as “any act of violence or threat thereof notwithstanding its motives or intentions perpetrated to carry out an individual or collective criminal plan with the aim of terrorizing people or threatening to harm them or imperiling their lives, honor, freedoms, security or rights or exposing the environment or any facility or public or private property to hazards or occupying or seizing them, or endangering a national resource, or international facilities, or threatening the stability, territorial integrity, political unity or sovereignty of independent States.”
Article Two of the Convention, however, states, “Peoples’ struggle including armed struggle against foreign occupation, aggression, colonialism, and hegemony, aimed at liberation and self-determination in accordance with the principles of international law shall not be considered a terrorist crime.”
Definition elusive, 15 years on
The U.N. does have a number of conventions dealing with various aspects of terrorism, but not one comprehensive and – crucially – legally-binding one.
At the instigation of India – a major target of terrorism – the U.N. General Assembly in 1996 passed a resolution setting up an “ad-hoc committee” to work on a draft convention proposed by India. The committee has met for a one- or two-week period every year for the past 15, but agreement on a terrorism definition remain elusive.
At its most recent annual meeting, held over five days last April, the “ad-hoc committee” once again came up against the same issue.
“Some delegations emphasized that terrorism should not be equated with the legitimate struggle of peoples under colonial or alien domination and foreign occupation for national liberation and self-determination,” the committee said in a report on its deliberations.
“Some delegations also reiterated their view that the convention should address terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including State terrorism, and that activities undertaken by the armed forces of States not regulated by international humanitarian law should also fall within its scope,” it said.
Elsewhere in its 9/11 statement, the OIC said combating terrorism requires an approach that goes beyond military means, including “identifying and addressing the root causes of conflicts and disputes.”
“In this regard, the OIC has been vocal in calling for historical reconciliation among different religions, cultures, and civilizations, which would be seen as catalyst to debunk the myth of ‘clash of civilizations’ elevated by the tragic events of 9/11, which have, also, helped, unfortunately, the Islamophobes to pursue with their discriminatory agenda towards Islam and Muslims.”
The OIC also cited a U.N. resolution adopted in 2008 “which negates the association of Islam to terrorism.”
Since Islamic terrorists attacked American on 9/11, the OIC has worked hard at trying to distance Islam from terrorism, but its fixed stance on “occupation” has not helped it to achieve that goal.
In April 2002, OIC foreign ministers met in Malaysia with a stated aim of defining terrorism and dissociating it from Islam, as a direct response to al-Qaeda’s attack in the name of Islam seven months earlier.
The gathering ended with a statement including the line: “We reject any attempt to link terrorism to the struggle of the Palestinian people in the exercise of their inalienable right to establish their independent state with al-Quds al-Sharif [Jerusalem] as its capital.”
A Saudi-hosted international counter-terrorism conference in 2005 shelved the issue of defining terrorism, after Saudi, Egyptian, Sudanese and Syrian representatives pushed for exemptions for struggles against occupation.
An OIC meeting in Islamabad in 2007 passed a resolution saying that “the struggle of peoples plying under the yoke of foreign occupation and colonialism, to accede to national freedom and establish their right to self-determination, does not in any way constitute an act of terrorism.”
A conference of Muslim scholars and experts in Saudi Arabia last year condemned terrorism “regardless of the place or the perpetrators” on one hand, but on the other commended a definition of terrorism agreed by a meeting of Arab ministers weeks earlier, which “emphasized the need to differentiate between terrorism and the legitimate struggle of people against occupation.”