Muslim nations’ group to counter Islamophobia

The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) announced in a report released over the weekend that it will take a number of steps to circumvent escalating Islamophobia in the West.

The OIC report, a 60-page assessment of the reasons behind Islamophobia, offers a detailed action plan to combat Islamophobia. The measures include explaining to Westerners that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance and correcting bias and misunderstandings about Islam. Islam’s bright past will be explained and the message that Islam does not support terrorism will be emphasized. The Western world will also be warned against provocative actions against Islam’s sacred symbols, such as happened during the crisis sparked when a Danish newspaper printed obscene cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed.

The report will share its findings with 11 leaders of OIC member nations in Dakar, Senegal, in a two-day summit starting March 13. The OIC report, prepared by the organization’s Islamophobia Observatory, seeks to explain to leaders of the Muslim world what needs to be done to fight Islamophobia.

In its opening paragraph, the report states: “One of the major issues facing present day international relations is the issue of Islamophobia. Islamophobia has existed since the time of the inception of Islam. However in recent years, the phenomenon has assumed alarming proportions and has indeed become a major cause of concern for the Muslim world. Defamation of Islam and racial intolerance of Muslims in Western societies are on the rise. The proponents of Islamophobia, who for whatever reasons are either prejudiced or hold a negative view against Islam and Muslims, are active in defaming Islam.”

To counter the situation, the OIC report suggests Muslim countries correct mistaken information people in the West have about Islam. An example of such a step is providing education that contravenes attempts to identify Islam with terrorism, violence and human rights violations.

Some of the proposed measures include encouraging Muslim civil society organizations in Western countries to develop closer contacts with their non-Muslim counterparts; holding youth forums and seminars on the Alliance of Civilizations; publishing supplements in leading newspapers and magazines; holding multi-lingual debates in reputed electronic media forums as well as renting airtime on Western television and radio stations to broadcast educational programs on the teachings of Islam; involving leading scholars in discussion and debate on contemporary issues; preparing documentaries and making films on Islam’s illustrious past as well as present-day advancements; and urging the Western world to avoid provocative and inflammatory statements, expressions and publications regarding Islam’s sacred symbols.

Today’s Zaman, 10 March 2008