Islamic Bloc Wants Media to Stop Promoting ‘Terrorism’ – But What Is It?

Patrick Goodenough | December 23, 2016 | 5:31am EST
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Information ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation bloc member-states meet in Jeddah. (Photo: OIC news agency)

( – Information ministers from the bloc of Islamic nations meeting in Jeddah this week urged media in Muslim countries to counter efforts to associate Islam – “a religion of compassion and peace” – with terrorism.

In addition, a Saudi-drafted resolution “called for condemning and criminalizing the media which promote, incite to, support and fund terrorism,” according to a statement by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

It was unanimously adopted by the conference, which met under the theme, “the role of new media in confronting terrorism and Islamophobia.”

OIC Secretary-General Yusuf Al-Othaimeen deplored the fact that “terrorist groups” use media to disseminate their extremist and misleading ideology.

In the context of the Syrian civil war, however, the definition of “terrorism” has become increasingly blurred.

For some Sunni members of the OIC, the terrorists are Iran, Hezbollah and other Shi’a militia fighting on behalf of the Assad regime.

But for Iran and its allies – also members of the OIC – it is the Sunni Gulf states that are supporting “takfiri” terrorists in Syria – a label used to cover groups ranging from nationalist rebels to jihadists such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) and al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra.

As a result, when media outlets on one side of the divide celebrate developments such as the “liberation” or the “fall” of Aleppo, they are essentially promoting what those on the other side view as terrorism.

(Similarly, Sunni and Shi’a media outlets exchange accusations of terrorism in the context of the civil war in Yemen.)

So the resolution adopted by the OIC ministers, which calls on the bloc’s member states to “condemn and criminalize” any media outlets that promote and incite terrorism, cannot realistically be implemented: To do so would entail outlawing, among others, state-run media in Iran, Saudi Arabia and a number of other countries in the region.

A declaration issued at the meeting in Jeddah did not address that awkward reality.

Instead it found common ground in targeting Israel, highlighting “the special role of media in Islamic countries in exposing the brutal Israeli aggression on the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip.”

It urged Islamic media to “continue to highlight the legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people and defend them until the establishment of their independent State with Al-Quds (Jerusalem) as its capital, and ending the Israeli occupation of the Arab territories.”

Another common theme at the meeting was “Islamophobia,” although again, the focus was on non Muslims associating terrorism with Islam, rather than adherents of the two main schools of Islam invoking their religious doctrine and interpretations to justify violent actions against each other.

“Addressing the issue of Islamophobia starts with presenting the truth about the magnanimous religion of Islam to foreign interlocutors in a thoughtful and effective manner,” said the declaration.

In comments carried by Iranian state media Thursday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad hailed the “liberation” of Aleppo from “terrorists” as a victory for countries opposed to terrorism and a defeat for countries “that have used terrorism as a means to realize their interests.”

Meanwhile the official Saudi news agency SPA, reporting on editorials in pro-government newspapers, said they declared that “what has been practiced by Al-Assad’s regime, its gangs and Iranian militias in Aleppo represents the most criminal, brutal, murderous and bloody forms of terrorism.”

The OIC, a bloc founded in 1969 and claiming to represent the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims, brings together 56 mostly Muslim-majority countries, stretching from Guyana and Suriname in Latin America to Indonesia in southeast Asia.

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