(Update: Adds response from Zuhdi Jasser)
(CNSNews.com) – A new report on global “Islamophobia” by the bloc of Islamic nations cites examples of negative trends in the United States, including the presence of an anti-Islamic Muslim activist on a statutory religious freedom body.
The annual report by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s Islamophobia Observatory said the U.S. had chosen “an Islamophobe” to be a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, even while “championing itself as a nation committed to religious freedom.”
Zuhdi Jasser, an observant Muslim who is president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), was appointed to the USCIRF by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in 2012.
Created under the 1999 International Religious Freedom Act, the USCIRF is mandated to make recommendations to the executive and legislative branches about promoting religious freedom abroad. Its unpaid commissioners are appointed by the administration and congressional leaders.
The OIC report noted that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) this year challenged Jasser’s suitability to be a commissioner, on the grounds that his democracy forum receives funding from an independent foundation that also supports other organizations which CAIR accuses of being Islamophobic, such as the Center for Security Policy think tank and Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum.
Jasser, speaking in his personal capacity and not on behalf of the USCIRF, on Friday dismissed the material relating to him in the report as “cut and pasted propaganda” originating from CAIR, adding that it revealed “the real agenda of the OIC’s mafia of autocrats.”
“Americans should take particular note that the ‘neo-caliphate’ of the OIC controlled by the regimes of 56 Muslim majority nations are some of the world’s most egregious offenders of human rights and religious freedom against Muslims and non-Muslims alike,” he told CNSNews.com.
“Yet, herein, in their conversation with the free world, they use their wealth and resources to simply defame and destroy the work of devout Muslims who refuse to toe their Islamist line,” Jasser said. “They attack reform-minded Muslims in order to deflect attention from their own crimes against humanity and the role of Islamist supremacism.”
“If someone lived on a faraway planet and looked only at the propaganda on the OIC website they would never imagine the truth, that in fact the freest place in the world for Muslims to live and practice Islam in liberty is inside the U.S., and contrarily many of the most repressive places for Muslims to practice their faith at all are in the so-called Islamic OIC nations,” he said.
‘Negative stereotypes regarding Islam’
CAIR, a controversial lobby group that describes itself as “America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization,” features a number of times in the OIC Islamophobia report, invariably as the complainant in cases ranging from anti-Muslim graffiti in California to allegations that the Florida Republican Party was inviting “speakers who espouse anti-Islamic views.”
The report, which was released during a two-day OIC foreign ministers’ meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, defines Islamophobia as “a contemporary form of racism that continues to grow in many parts of the world and particularly in the West.”
Citing opinion polls suggesting that Americans’ views of Islam were growing more negative, it also charged that “Western media, including the social media, continued to play a key role in promoting and disseminating an anti–Muslim culture.”
Some quarters of the Western media, it said, were “propagating fascist and irresponsible anti-Islam hate discourses.”
“The lack of objectivity and biased reporting combined with continuous focus on the issue of ‘Islamic extremism’ steadily consolidated negative stereotyping of Muslims.”
Another problem area identified by the Islamophobia Observatory was the failure of some governments and political leaders to take legal action against “perpetrators of Islamophobia.”
“Such inaction helps propagate negative stereotypes regarding Islam, including the notion that Islam is linked to terror; that it is intolerant of other religious beliefs; that its values and practices are incompatible with modern democratic systems; that it favors repression of freedom of expression and that it undermines human rights,” the report said.
The Islamophobia Observatory did, however, find what it portrayed as positive developments during the period under review.
These included Brandeis University’s hotly-debated decision last April to withdraw an honorary degree from Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born naturalized American scholar known for her advocacy for women in Islamic societies.
“It was with satisfaction that the Observatory noted the University of Brandeis, in the United States, making a step back in giving an award to a known Islamophobe, Ayaan Hirsi Ali,” the report said.
Among other “constructive developments with regard to combating Islamophobia,” it highlighted remarks last March by CIA Director John Brennan, who said al-Qaeda had “a perverse and very corrupt interpretation of the Qur’an.”
The OIC report cited a CNSNews.com article in which Brennan was quoted as saying, “One of the things that I'm struck with when I travel throughout the Middle East and I meet with leaders, military and civilian – these are individuals who are Qur’anic scholars themselves and they are the ones who are most annoyed at how al-Qaeda has hijacked their religion and how they have really distorted the teachings of Mohammed, you know, for violent purposes.”
The OIC, which comprises 56 Muslim-majority nations plus “Palestine,” has described itself as “the second largest intergovernmental organization after the United Nations.”
The U.S. has had a special envoy to the OIC since 2008.