OIC’s human rights body urges Dutch govt to ban anti-Islamic caricatures competition

A Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest is being organized later this year by anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders, seen here at a rally in London
Updated 28 August 2018

OIC’s human rights body urges Dutch govt to ban anti-Islamic caricatures competition

JEDDAH: The Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (OIC-IPHRC) unreservedly condemned the malicious plan of Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders to hold an international competition on the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad later this year.
The body called on the Dutch Government to take immediate steps to prevent “this sacrilegious transgression,” saying it not enough to distance yourself, but it is the duty of every state to prohibit, by law, “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence”. 
Earlier, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte distanced his government from a the contest, noting that Wilders “is not a member of the government. The competition is not a government initiative.”
Rutte’s comments came after angry reactions in Pakistan to the proposed contest, which Wilders plans to hold in November in his Party for Freedom’s heavily guarded offices at the Dutch parliament.
Opposition lawmaker Wilders is well known for his fierce criticism of Islam and has previously sparked fury in Muslim nations with a film about Islam.
“The event, if permitted to take place, has the potential to inflame and promote a culture of intolerance and incitement to hatred. Such acts also result in a wider sense of alienation, rejection, and polarization among affected communities leading to discrimination and violence, an antithesis to the coveted ideals of multiculturalism and pluralism,” the OIC-IPHRC said in a statement.
The Commission regards freedom of expression as a key human right, which is vital for development of stable, peaceful and progressive democratic societies.
However, the scope of freedom of expression, as provided in Article 19 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights and, more importantly, Articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), clearly stipulate that exercising of freedom of expression carries with it “special duties and responsibilities” to ensure societal cohesion, as well as “respect of the rights and reputations of others.” 
The Dutch Government must, therefore, take immediate steps to prevent this event to protect the religious and cultural sensitivities of its own and the wider international Muslim population as well as to preserve the societal harmony and ideals of tolerance and multiculturalism that are the hallmark of Dutch society.
While squarely condemning these coordinated and often repeated acts of incitement to religious hatred/discrimination, the Commission urges Muslims around the world to continue to exercise restraint in their reaction to such malicious provocations, which are squarely intended to incite racial and religious hatred, discrimination and violence under the garb of freedom of expression.
OIC-IPHRC emphasizes that growing xenophobia, intolerance and hatred in Europe, in particular, and the world, at large, could only be countered through the promotion of tolerance, respect for cultural and religious diversity and enhanced interfaith and intercultural dialogue at all levels. 
IPHRC also endorses the OIC Secretary General’s statement that “it is time to put in place internationally binding legal instruments to prevent incitement, racism, discrimination and religious hatred”.
To that end, the Commission reiterates the critical need to fully and effectively implement the universally agreed UN Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18, which provides a comprehensive framework to combat religious intolerance through a multipronged action plan. 
Physical depictions of God or the Prophet Muhammad, even respectful ones, are considered blasphemous in Islamic tradition.


Over 1m Filipino overseas workers set to lose jobs

Updated 03 June 2020

Over 1m Filipino overseas workers set to lose jobs

  • OFWs in Middle East, US, Europe, and Asia to be worst hit by global economic downturn

MANILA: More than 1 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) could be out of work by next year as the world economy continues to slump due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, analysts and officials warned on Tuesday.

“With a huge number of OFWs out of the market, this would also result in licensed recruitment and manning agencies closing shop in the coming months,” Emmanuel Geslani, a recruitment and migration expert, told Arab News.

During a virtual press briefing, Filipino Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said that 343,551 OFWs had already been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. “Either they were displaced because of COVID-19, or the virus infected them.”

He added: “Of the total number, 341,161 were displaced, which means they were either terminated (from their jobs) and no longer employed, or they could not go to work because of the lockdown, hence no work, no pay.”

Bello noted that only around 95,000 OFWs were “stranded” because almost 200,000 of the affected workers “don’t want to come home” and “would rather stay” where they are, especially those in the US and Europe.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the Philippine government has brought home an estimated 36,625 OFWs. The latest group to return to the country consisted of 175 Filipinos repatriated from Kuwait as part of an amnesty granted by the Kuwaiti government. They arrived at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila on Monday afternoon.

Geslani, however, said the near 100,000 OFWs waiting to be repatriated was only a fraction of the total number of migrant workers who may be displaced by December 2021, citing figures from the labor department.

On Friday, Alice Visperas, director of the Department of Labor and Employment – International Labor Affairs Bureau (DOLE-ILAB), told a virtual hearing of the house committee on overseas workers’ affairs that estimates suggested that just over 1 million Filipino workers abroad would have been displaced by December 2021.

The DOLE predicted that the number of displaced OFWs would rise from the current figure of more than 300,000 to about 600,000 by December 2020, around 800,000 by June 2021, and tipping over the 1 million mark by the end of next year.

The majority of OFWs expected to lose their jobs are employed in the Middle East, followed by Europe, the US, and Asia.

“This grim prediction by the DOLE will have a devastating effect on over 1,200 land and sea-based licensed recruitment and manning agencies with over 50 percent of the existing agencies not expected to survive the next few months,” Geslani said, pointing out that so far the deployment of OFWs had gone down by 99 percent.

“Lower-for-longer oil prices and the economic recession, even in the more successful Gulf countries, means less foreign workers in the future,” he added.

“The oil price depression will be lower for longer. The pandemic has triggered a mass lockdown of many countries in the world, especially in the Middle East where the majority of our OFWs work.”

Geslani held out little hope for workers in the foreseeable future, except for those in the health sector.

“New markets in Europe are still in lockdown and even Japan, which is our newest market, has closed its borders to 111 countries including the Philippines,” he said, adding that “the severe lack of business” would mean the closure of small- and medium-sized recruitment agencies with deployments of less than 200 a year.

Cathy Gatbunton, a Filipino house-help worker in Hong Kong, said her employment contract was due to end in July. Her employer, who was soon to relocate to Canada, had initially planned to take her with them but because of COVID-19 restrictions “that might no longer be possible.”

But Gatbunton had no plans to return to the Philippines, preferring to try and find a new employer in Hong Kong. She noted that many Filipino workers who had flown back to the Philippines, even for a vacation, were now out of work because they had been unable to return to Hong Kong due to the lockdown.

Evhan Manalac, who has worked at a US military base in Kandahar since 2011, is among about 2,000 Filipinos who will lose their jobs when US forces withdraw from Afghanistan.

“Our plan is really to go home for good next year. But it seems it will happen earlier than we have planned. Nevertheless, we are ready. We’re thinking of opening a small business in the Philippines,” Manalac said.

Marcin De Leon, an office worker employed on an engineering project in Saudi Arabia, said his job had been on hold for the past 45 days but he had now been asked to return to work.

“In some cases, some documented OFWs employed by companies that have closed down may still find employment in the Kingdom provided it is in the same field,” he added.