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.”


Two years on, Turkish dissident remains behind bars 

Updated 21 October 2019

Two years on, Turkish dissident remains behind bars 

  • “It is not Kavala who has lost his freedom and independence, it is the Turkish judicial system,” his lawyers said in a statement.  

JEDDAH: The situation of many peaceful dissidents who are still in jail in Turkey, like Osman Kavala, who recently completed his second year in pretrial detention, is still criticized by Western countries and human rights defenders.  

The solitary confinement of Turkish philanthropist, activist and businessman Kavala is described by many as a “Kafkaesque” experience, as charges brought in the indictment against him are still without concrete evidence.  

Kavala, who was put behind bars over his alleged involvement in Gezi Park protests in summer 2013 to “overthrow the government” by funding and organizing the whole process, had his third hearing on October 8, but the court ruled that he should remain in custody. 

“It is not Kavala who has lost his freedom and independence, it is the Turkish judicial system,” his lawyers said in a statement.  

In the indictment, Kavala is accused of providing milk, fruit juice and pastries as well as gas masks to protesters.  

The fact that he was on the board of the Turkish branch of George Soros’ Open Society Foundation at that time was also a source of suspicion. But he denied that the charity had ever provided financial support for the protests.  

The next hearing for the case is set for December 24-25.  

Some of his friends shared with Arab News their thoughts and feelings about the lengthy judicial process  

“It is hard to put into words how much influence one person can have at changing historical and current perspectives,” Louis Fishman, an assistant professor at City University of New York, told Arab News. 

“Kavala is man who has dedicated his life to creating spaces within the Turkish public sphere, where narratives of Armenians, Kurds, and other silenced groups can find a place. This soft-spoken man has contributed greatly to the development of a civil society in Turkey and even after his imprisonment his work is being carried out through multiple non-profit organizations and art galleries,” he added. 

Fishman also said that the presence of Kavala was missed, but his legacy continued, and all his friends and supporters were waiting for his release and his return.  

Aysen Candas, a Turkish political scientist from Yale University, is another friend of Kavala who took part of the international campaign to raise awareness of his incarceration.

“Osman Kavala’s unlawful imprisonment, the violation of due process at every step of his detainment, bogus charges against him, the ridiculous nature of what is presented as ‘evidence,’ namely illegally tapped phone conversations irrelevant to the charges, the fact that the indictment was submitted one year after Osman was imprisoned … are all plain facts about his case,” she told Arab News. 

According to Candas: “What renders Kavala’s imprisonment politically significant is his relentless defense of the rule of law, human rights, minority protections and his advocacy of implementing the standards of constitutional democracies in Turkey. 

“He was a firm, unyielding proponent of norms of rule of law and democracy and minorities, he lent a legitimacy to the political initiatives he was a part of,” she added. 

Candas also noted that: “While the activities of Kavala’s cultural association Anadolu Kultur have been highlighted and targeted by the false accusations that are scattered all through the ridiculous indictment against him, his imprisonment is not due to cultural activities but is aiming to attack the political meaning of these cultural activities, such as peaceful coexistence, such as dialogue and public deliberation, such as equal respect.” 

Candas thinks Kavala’s imprisonment reflects the new hostage-status of constitutional democracy in Turkey; the negation of not just the democratization efforts since the 1980s, but also of the secular republic, of cosmopolitan modernization, of Turkey’s efforts to become an international, law-abiding member of UN and of all international conventions that Turkey is a part of. 

“Osman is also a secular businessman, a member of Turkey’s top business association. His family is from the Balkans and they had arrived in mainland Turkey through the population exchange with Greece, so perhaps the secular identity, of those who established the republic in 1923, is being targeted and criminalized in Osman’s person,” she said.