Ihsanoglu calls for efforts to combat Islamophobia

Jalil Afridi
Istanbul: The Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, stressed that for international cooperation to bear its fruit in combating discrimination and fostering equal chances within societies and among peoples, the international discourse on these serious matters need further de-politicization. In his speech at the opening ceremony of the International Conference on Islamophobia: Law & Media held at the Tarabaya Hotel in Istanbul, Turkey, the Secretary General stressed on the need for a proper gathering and analyzing of information on new trends and manifestation of discrimination for Islamophobia to be effectively combated. Furthermore, the international community needs to strengthen and rationalize its numerous expert mechanisms working on these issues with a view to better interpreting and implementing already existing international obligations, he added. At the outset of his speech, Ihsanoglu thanked the Government of the Republic of Turkey for hosting this first International Conference, which is organized in cooperation with the OIC. Healso thanked the Directorate General of Press and Information (DGPI) for making this event a reality. Noting that Islamophobiais not only central to the Islamic world but for the entire international community, Ihsanoglu said that this phenomenon, which is one of the most challenging issues facing the international community, is a threat and poses danger to global peace and security. It stands in stark contradiction to universal values as well as to the international community�s commitment to developing a culture of peace and harmony among different cultures, civilizations and faiths, he said. The Secretary General noted that since he took office in 2005, relentless efforts continued to be exerted by the OIC to contain and combat Islamophobia, which was being fueled mainly by radical and extremist elements whose aim is to distort the image of Islam and Muslims. He stated that the efforts of the OIC only are not enough to combat Islamophobia. Concerted efforts and proactive stance on the part of the Member States on combating Islamophobia are also imperative.
Ihsanoglu explained the main phases which have characterized and accompanied the rise of Islamophbia in the west during his term in office, which are: exploitation of the concept of freedom of speech, politicization of the phenomenon in order to gain political footing in the national politics by extreme right wing groups, and institutionalization and constitutionalization of Islamophobia.
Ihsanoglu noted that, besides the numerous initiatives and conferences organized by the OIC, the efforts of theOrganization and its continued engagements with various international and regional organizations, governments of non-OIC members particularly Western countries, human rights institutions, interfaith and faith based organizations and civil society have paid well in terms of raising awareness in the West.Ihsanoglu also shed light on the OIC media strategy in combating Isalmophobia and on the role of media with particular emphasis on the Turkish media, which played significant role in positively dealing with the issue and even went against the tirades of known Islamophobes. However, he stated that media, at times, have also played a role in fomenting anti-Muslim sentiments. The Secretary General also noted that the OIC has successfully managed to put Islamophobia on the agenda of international relations.