Islamic Bloc Says It Faces ‘Smear Campaign’ Over Religious ‘Defamation’ Push

By Patrick Goodenough | November 6, 2009 | 4:43 AM EST

Organization of the Islamic Conference Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu. (Photo: OIC)

( – Facing growing opposition to its ongoing drive against religious “defamation,” the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) is accusing critics of “smear campaigns” and insisting that the resolution it has introduced at the United Nations applies to all religions.
As was the case with last year’s resolution, however, Islam is the only faith mentioned by name in the OIC-drafted text currently before a U.N. General Assembly committee.
The resolution “expresses deep concern … that Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism.”
It also cites “the ethnic and religious profiling of Muslim minorities” and “the
introduction and enforcement of laws and administrative measures that specifically
discriminate against and target persons with certain ethnic and religious
backgrounds, particularly Muslim minorities” following 9/11.
Opponents of the resolution include Christian and humanist organizations, as well as groups concerned about human rights, homeland security, religious persecution, freedom of expression and press freedom.
Critics say the OIC is trying to use the “defamation” charge to shield Islamic authorities and practices from legitimate scrutiny in Western countries, in the same way as Islamic governments use blasphemy laws against non-Muslim minorities, or non-mainstream Muslims, at home.
This year’s resolution, introduced by Syria on behalf of the OIC along with non-Muslim allies Venezuela and Belarus, will shortly come to a vote in the General Assembly’s Third Committee, which deals with social, cultural, and humanitarian issues. It will then go before the full General Assembly next month.
The OIC has been pushing such resolutions for the past decade, both in the General Assembly and at the U.N.’s human rights organs in Geneva, but only in recent years has significant public opposition emerged.
In 2007, a similar resolution passed by a vote of 108-51, with 25 abstentions.
Last year, however, lobbying by a range of opposing groups proved effective, and for the first time more countries opposed or abstained than voted in favor of the measure. The 2008 resolution passed by 86-53 votes, with 42 countries abstaining.
Opponents hope to see even weaker support for the resolution this year. The OIC alone accounts for 56 votes. Last year the Islamic members were joined by several dozen others, including China, Russia, North Korea and numerous countries in Africa and Latin America.
In a statement this week defending the resolution, OIC General-Secretary Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu pointed to non-Islamic countries’ support in past years.
“It is important to note that passage of these resolutions by a majority vote beyond the membership of the OIC lends international legitimacy to the OIC position on this issue,” he said.
Ihsanoglu said the text of the resolutions had evolved and it was now not restricted to Islam, but rather “denounced discrimination and incitement to hatred stemming from defamation of all religions.”
He said it was unfortunate that interest and lobby groups in the West were conducting “smear campaigns” against the OIC, “aimed at misleading the Western public opinion.”
The OIC, Ihsangolu said, was “merely seeking a concerted international effort aimed at elimination of acts of incitement to hatred stemming from defamation of religions.”
One of the U.S.-based organizations leading opposition to the resolution, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), says it has visited several dozen permanent delegations at the U.N. to draw attention to what it calls the dangerous ramifications of the resolution.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

A petition organized by the ACLJ and addressed to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon describes the resolution as “essentially anti-Christian in nature. It would not leave Christian people free to speak with regard to their faith.”
Meanwhile, the OIC is courting fresh controversy by inviting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to attend an OIC summit in Istanbul, Turkey this weekend. Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Sudan’s western Darfur region.
Since the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Bashir last March, the Sudanese leader has traveled to a handful of countries, including Egypt, Libya and Qatar. But Turkey is a NATO member, a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, and an aspiring member of the European Union, and its decision to allow him to visit is drawing fire from human rights groups in Turkey.
Turkey, like the other countries Bashir has visited since March, is not a member of the ICC, and is not legally obliged to arrest him on behalf of the tribunal. The Security Council has urged all governments to cooperate with the court, however.
For its part, the OIC has consistently opposed any ICC action against Bashir, accusing the court of politicizing “a purely legal issue.”
According to U.N. estimates, some 300,000 people have been killed and more than 2.5 million driven from their homes during six years of fighting between militias backed by Khartoum and rebel groups in Darfur. The conflict largely pits Arab Muslims against black Africans who adhere to the same religion.
Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow