Muslim nations urge for measures against Islamophobia

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during an emergency meeting of the OIC in Istanbul, on March 22, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 23 March 2019

Muslim nations urge for measures against Islamophobia

  • The OIC said attacks against mosques and murders of Muslims showed the "brutal, inhumane and horrific outcomes" of hatred of Islam
  • Erdogan also said far-right neo-nazi groups should be treated as terrorists in the same way as Daesh

JEDDAH: Muslim nations on Friday called for tough international action to combat Islamophobia following the terror attack on two New Zealand mosques. The executive committee of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), meeting in Istanbul, expressed its outrage at last week’s Christchurch massacre, and deep concern over the resurgence of racist movements and terrorist activities around the world.
Foreign ministers attending the emergency session, issued a raft of demands aimed at tackling the scourge of hate-related violence toward Muslims and other minority groups. They said raids on mosques and the killing of Muslims highlighted the “brutal and inhumane consequences” of hatred of Islam.
Members called on all governments to review their legal frameworks regarding terrorism and urged the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights to establish an observatory to monitor extremist acts against Muslims.
The OIC committee also suggested that the UN and other regional and international organizations should declare March 15 (the day of the Christchurch attack) an international day of solidarity against Islamophobia.
It said the UN should convene a session of its General Assembly to debate the issue of racism and appoint a special representative on combating Islamophobia. The UN was also requested to expand the scope of its existing sanctions on terror groups to cover individuals and entities associated with extremist ethnic organizations.
Fifty worshippers died and many others were seriously injured during last Friday’s shootings at the Al-Noor and Linwood mosques in New Zealand’s South Island city.
The OIC reiterated that terrorism had no religion or justification and was a crime regardless of when, where or against who it was committed.
In its final communique, the OIC committee said a recent global rise in terrorist activities was hampering international efforts to promote peace and harmony between nations.
Adhering to international policies on safeguarding the rights, dignity, religious and cultural identity of Muslim communities and minorities in non-member states was key to tackling the issue, the ministers declared.
They noted resolutions of previous Islamic summit conferences and meetings which expressed concerns over attacks on mosques and other Muslim properties.
The OIC foreign ministers thanked the government of New Zealand for its unequivocal condemnation of the terrorist attacks and the firm stance of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and offered their full support to a comprehensive and transparent investigation into the outrage.
The committee also extended its sincere condolences to the families of the victims.
The meeting stressed the need for the OIC to maintain close contacts with UN and EU governments of countries with Muslim populations and minorities to identify ways of promoting cultural harmony, understanding, respect, and tolerance.
Communicating with social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to remove and prohibit content inciting violence and hatred toward Muslims was also important, the OIC ministers stated.
Members requested the OIC Contact Group on Peace and Dialogue to prioritize efforts to combat religious discrimination, Islamophobia, intolerance, and hatred against Muslims and to hold regular interfaith meetings. They added that all the necessary human and financial resources should be given to the OIC’s work in communicating with centers around the world concerned with Islamophobia.
Meanwhile Ridwaan Jadwat, Australia’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said: “Australians share their deepest sympathies with those affected by the devastating terrorist attack by a right-wing extremist in Christchurch and share the grief of New Zealanders and Muslim communities the world over.
“The day after the attack, the prime minister and foreign minister reached out to the Muslim community to convey deep condolences and show solidarity, visiting a mosque and meeting Muslim leaders including the grand mufti and the Australian National Imams Council.
“We will always protect and defend our Muslim community in Australia and our people’s right to practice peacefully their religion without fear. Everyone has a right to feel safe in their places of worship.”
The envoy said his government was extending community safety grants to protect religious schools, places of worship and assembly.
“This is the time for unity and inclusion. We must all work together against extremism and take care to ensure our public debates about this horrific incident do not encourage the very divisions between faiths and cultures that extremists seek to create.”


Battle looms for key Libyan city Sirte

Updated 55 min 1 sec ago

Battle looms for key Libyan city Sirte

  • LNA spokesman Ahmed Al-Mesmari said that western Libya is under total Turkish control
  • “We expect an attack on Sirte by Turkey and the militias at any time,” he said

CAIRO: A military buildup around the Libyan city of Sirte has raised fears of a major battle for control of the area’s strategic oil reserves.
The Libyan National Army (LNA), which has occupied Sirte since May, accused Turkey of targeting the oil-rich city and supplying militias in the area with weapons.
LNA spokesman Ahmed Al-Mesmari said that western Libya is under total Turkish control.
He said that Turkey aims to reach Libya’s “oil crescent,” a coastal region home to most of its oil export terminals.
The LNA is closely monitoring Turkey’s moves in Sirte and Al-Jufra, he added.
“We expect an attack on Sirte by Turkey and the militias at any time,” Al-Mesmari said.
His statement was confirmed a few days ago on a social media account affiliated with Turkey, which posted a map of areas under its control as well as the latest developments in Libya. The map showed areas under the control of Khalifa Haftar, LNA commander, and the Government of National Accord (GNA). It also featured arrows illustrating that Sirte and Al-Jufra are the next targets of the GNA, despite a no-fly zone on the area imposed by the LNA.
The developments led UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to warn on Wednesday against a military buildup near Sirte, which is located between the capital Tripoli and Benghazi.
The warning came after LNA troops led by Haftar retreated and GNA troops led by Fayez Al-Sarraj, prime minister of the GNA of Libya, advanced.
In a UN Security Council meeting chaired by Germany via video conference, Guterres said foreign interference in Libya had reached “unprecedented levels.”
He condemned the violation of a cease-fire in place since 2011, which also called for the handing over of advanced military equipment and a declaration of the number of mercenaries involved in the conflict. However, Guterres did not name the parties who violated the cease-fire.
Guterres called on Al-Sarraj and Haftar to engage in political negotiations and agree to a cease-fire.
During the conference, the representatives of Germany, the US and France warned Turkey about its involvement in Sirte.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry indirectly criticized Turkey for sending Syrian militants to Libya.
“The transfer of Syrian extremist militants to Libyan territories by one of the regional parties aggravates the situation in Libya. This issue is a serious threat to the security of the Libyans as well as neighboring Mediterranean countries,” he said.
Shoukry added: “These threats clearly and currently endanger Egypt, and we will not tolerate this type of threats which are close to our borders, at a time when foreign interferences provide those militants with support.”
He said: “Supporting extremism must stop. We have to put an end to the sources of support by regional players who are confirmed to care less about the stability of the Mediterranean region. Solving this problem and resisting such policies is a prerequisite for the success of our efforts to protect the future of our peoples and that of the Libyan people.”
Shoukry expressed Egypt’s concern regarding the deployment of what he labeled “terrorist groups” west of Libya, with Daesh presenting the greatest potential threat. He said he considered such a deployment a threat to the security and stability of Egypt.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi suggested that any violation of Sirte and Al-Jufra will push Egypt to intervene in accordance with international norms and conventions.
Egyptian military expert Samir Farag said that oil is the main reason behind Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s interference in Libya. Farag said that Sirte and Al-Jufra are Erdogan’s two main goals in controlling Libya’s “oil crescent.”
Farag said: “Erdogan knows very well the competence of the Egyptian forces and is afraid of facing them. President El-Sisi said that Sirte and Al-Jufra are red lines.”
He added that if Turkey interferes in those areas, “there will be a strong reply.” He said the Egyptian Air Force is ready and capable of reaching any place which poses a threat to Egyptian national security.
Farag hailed the French role in the Libyan crisis. He said a speech by the French representative during the Security Council meeting on Libya was clear and strong.
“Erdogan faces a difficult situation internally and externally,” Farag said, adding: “Perhaps NATO would adopt resolutions on preventing Turkey from using military coordinates.”
Mohamed El-Ghobary, former director of the Egyptian National Defense College, said Libya has become “an international venue for conflict that is not only regional.”
“The whole world agreed that Sirte is a red line and that whoever crosses that line is an aggressor,” he said.
El-Ghobary added that Sirte is in the middle of Libya and controls the transfer of oil from south to north, and that Turkey aims to deploy there because of this. But Egypt would not allow this, he said.
“Egypt has a development plan that requires it not to slip into any potential losses,” he said.
The Egyptian leadership has a military strategy and political ideology. Any intervention will be “accurately calculated,” El-Ghobary said.