Muslim Nations: Defame Islam, get sued?
News date: Sunday, March 16, 2008
DAKAR, Senegal (AP) -- The Muslim world has created
a battle plan to defend its religion from political cartoonists and bigots.
about what they see as a rise in the defamation of Islam, leaders of the
world's Muslim nations are considering taking legal action against those that
slight their religion or its sacred symbols. It was a key issue during a
two-day summit that ended Friday in this western Africa capital.
The Muslim leaders are attempting to demand redress from nations like Denmark,
which allowed the publication of cartoons portraying the Prophet Muhammad in
2006 and again last month, to the fury of the Muslim world.
Though the legal measures being considered have not been spelled out, the idea
pits many Muslims against principles of freedom of speech enshrined in the
constitutions of numerous Western governments.
""I don't think freedom of expression should mean freedom from
blasphemy,"" said Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade, the chairman of
the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference. ""There can be
no freedom without limits.""
Delegates were given a voluminous report by the OIC that recorded anti-Islamic
speech and actions from around the world. The report concludes that Islam is
under attack and that a defense must be mounted.
""Muslims are being targeted by a campaign of defamation,
denigration, stereotyping, intolerance and discrimination,"" charged
Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the secretary general of the group.
The report urges the creation of a ""legal instrument"" to
crack down on defamation of Islam. Some delegates point to laws in Europe
criminalizing the denial of the Holocaust and other anti-Semitic rhetoric. They
also point to articles within various UN charters that condemn discrimination
based on religion and argue that these should be ramped up.
""In our relation with the western world, we are going through a
difficult time,"" Ihsanoglu told the summit's general assembly.
""Islamophobia cannot be dealt with only through cultural activities
but (through) a robust political engagement.""
The International Humanist and Ethical Union in Geneva released a statement
accusing the Islamic states of attempting to limit freedom of expression and of
attempting to misuse the UN.
Human Rights Watch said in a statement that objectionable depictions of the
Prophet Muhammad do not ""give them the right under international
human rights law to insist that others abide by their views.""
Hemayet Uddin, the lead author of the OIC report and head of cultural affairs
for the group said legal action is needed because ""this Islamophobia
that we see in the world has gone far beyond a phobia. It is now at the level
of hatred, of xenophobia, and we need to act.""
A new charter drafted by the OIC commits the Muslim body ""to protect
and defend the true image of Islam"" and ""to combat the
defamation of Islam.""
To protect the faith, Muslim nations have created an
""observatory"" that meets regularly to monitor
Islamophobia. It examines lectures and workshops taking place around the world
and prints a monthly record of offensive content.
But some of the summit's delegates said a legal approach would be over the top.
""My general view would be that the confrontational approach is one
my country would avoid,"" said Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Iftekhar
Chowdhruy. Bangladesh is 90 percent Muslim.
While the Muslim world worries about the image of Islam in the West, the U.S.
envoy to the OIC attended the summit to try to tackle the thorny question of
America's image among Muslim states.
Sada Cumber calls his campaign the ""soft power"" of the
U.S. — an effort to find common ground with Muslim nations by championing
universal values the U.S. holds dear like religious tolerance and freedom of
""America has a deep respect for the religion of Islam,""
Cumber told The Associated Press. ""The freedom of faith that we
exercise, that we enjoy in America, that is also a very important aspect of the
American core values. Anyone who wants to practice any faith is never stopped
Also during the summit, Chad and Sudan signed a peace agreement to stop
incursions of rebels across each other's borders, and the summit delegates
committed themselves to addressing the spiraling violence between Israelis and