Islamic Nations Praise Obama’s Outreach and U.S. Plans to Close ‘Islamophobia Prison’ at Guantanamo
May 24, 2010 - 4:19 AMPresident Obama's Cairo speech to Muslims, his plan to shut down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay and the dropping of language deemed offensive to Muslims are among the positive developments highlighted in the Organization of the Islamic Conference's new report on 'Islamophobia.'
Areas requiring more work include winning the Obama administration over to the OIC-held position on the need for legal tools to counter “religious defamation.”
The OIC made available copies of the third annual report compiled by a subsidiary body called the “Islamophobia Observatory” after its official release during a meeting of foreign ministers from the 56-nation bloc in Tajikistan last week.
The 70-page report lists dozens of incidents in Western countries over the past year as examples of what it terms Islamophobia.
They range from anti-Muslim graffiti to the Swiss ban on minaret building; from the periodic appearance of cartoons depicting Mohammed to complaints that a Christmas buffet for Britain’s Royal Mail workers included pork in a supposedly vegetarian dish.
Warning that the phenomenon “poses grave and multidimensional challenges to global as well as regional peace, security and stability,” the report calls for stronger action by governments.
“Defamation of Islam as well as personalities and symbols sacred to Islam and Muslims as well as other religions is a matter of grave concern to the OIC.”
Specifically, it recommends that abusive or insulting statements on matters held sacred by a religion and likely to outrage substantial number of its adherents, should be banned.
Governments should also help or encourage the creation of self-regulatory media bodies to deal with these issues.
The report also calls for international human rights law “to be evaluated and evolved in the interest of combating Islamophobia and defamation of all religions in an effective manner.”
Building a foundation towards achieving that goal, the OIC has succeeded in getting non-binding resolutions against religious defamation passed at the U.N. each year for the past decade. (The report says the fact that support from non-Islamic countries has helped to ensure passage of the measures “lends international legitimacy to the concept of defamation of religions.”)
The bloc is now pushing to get an existing, legally binding anti-racism convention broadened to define defamation of religion as “a contemporary form of racism.”
Noting Washington’s opposition to the religious defamation drive – the U.S. and other critics say it impinges on freedom of expression – the report discusses the importance of getting U.S. support for the initiative.
“The criticism leveled by the U.S. administration on the OIC-proposed legally binding instrument was not in line with the expectations raised by promise of engagement in the [June 2009] Cairo speech by President Obama,” it says.
“A positive response by the U.S. to the OIC’s call for engagement towards evaluating and evolving norms towards combating Islamophobia – with particular reference to defamation of religions – would constitute a positive step forward in terms of backing President Obama’s words with action,” it says.
By contrast, the report praises the Obama administration for other policies.
“The main important development was the Cairo speech by President Obama, who promised a ‘new beginning’ with the Muslim world,” it says. “It was also remarkable the decision he took to close down the ‘Islamophobia prison,’ Guantanamo, as well as the instructions to stop using derogatory concepts against Muslims such as ‘War on Terror.’ ”
It also praises the appointment of Rashad Hussain, formerly a White House deputy associate counsel, as Obama’s special envoy to the OIC, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to OIC headquarters in Jeddah last February – the first by a secretary of state in the organization’s 40-year history.