by Andrew E. Harrod and Adam Turner
Although more attention goes to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation's (OIC) prominent attempts to police speech in Western nations regarding Islam-related topics through the UN and the "Istanbul Process", Muslim and Islamist desires to restrict critical speech concerning Islam-related topics and promote a positive image of their religion have also played a role in yet another international organization's efforts to address the debate about Islam and Muslims. On October 28, 2011, a conference, titled: "Confronting Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims in Public Discourse," was held at the Vienna headquarters of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The OSCE is an international grouping encompassing 56 states from North America (Canada and the United States), Europe, and the former Soviet Union. At this conference the Danish-Pakistani general-secretary of the Initiative of European Muslims for Social Cohesion (Die Initiative Europäischer Muslime für Sozialen Zusammenhalt or IEMSZ), Bashy Quraishi, called for "guidelines against Islamophobia in public discourse" and stated that "freedom of speech in Europe entails responsibility, something often forgotten by political leaders and journalists." Also, General Quraishi as well as numerous other participants at the conference extolled the civilizational contributions of Islam – and Muslims – to humanity. Perhaps not too surprisingly in this politically correct world, in the end the OSCE seemingly acceded to Quraishi's desire to protect Muslims from insulting speech and promote a positive view of Islam.
This fact is clearly visible in the resulting OSCE booklet titled - Guidelines for Educators on Countering Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims: Addressing Islamophobia through Education (available online in PDF format). The OSCE's booklet focuses heavily on fighting "Islamophobia," a problem that even some surprising figures find clearly exaggerated. It claims that the "media" and "some political discourse" has "contributed" to a belief that Muslims are "extremists who threaten the security and well-being of others" and has resulted in a "range of discrimination." The booklet also contains many politically correct, and sometimes undocumented, statements. In countering "recurring stereotypes in public discourse about Muslims" such as "their religion advocates violence" or their being "irrational and violent" and a "security threat," the guidelines recommended a variety of "educational responses." The booklet asserts that there is "much diversity within Islam" and that Muslims have a "great deal in common" with "people with different religious or cultural backgrounds." It also says that "various religious or cultural communities, including Muslims, Christians, Jews and others, can and do have positive impacts on each other, and frequently work and live together in close co-operation and partnership." Finally, it singles out "Islamic cultures and civilizations" for their oft-claimed, yet disputed, "substantial contributions over the centuries to science and technology, the arts and architecture, and law, ethics and philosophy." Meanwhile, the booklet ignores, aside from general references to "radicalism and extremism," the more unsavory issues of Islamist terrorist violence in its various forms and the imposition of radical Islamic norms, such as sharia, making many headlines today in reference to Islam.
Revealingly, the booklet references the OIC, in the section "Resources and Information Tools," as just one institution among others concerned with human rights and freedom of speech. As followers of the LP know, the 57-member state (including, somewhat dubiously, Palestine) OIC has pursued a longstanding international agenda of attempting to legally curb criticism of Islam in general and Islamist groups in particular under the guises of "religious defamation" and "Islamophobia." Further, the OIC contains no developed democracies with protections for human rights and free speech among its member states. Tellingly, OIC-headquarters host Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy that bans the proselytization and practice of non-Islamic faiths as well as "blasphemous" remarks against Islam or the Saudi monarchy, punishes homosexuals with death, and prevents women from voting or driving cars. (For specific examples of OIC member nations' poor records of respecting human rights, please peruse the reports of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.) To place the OIC on an equal footing with international institutions committed to equality of all before the law is ridiculous, if not perverse.
But don't worry – there is no need to be concerned about the biased guidelines produced at the OSCE conference. So says Quraishy, who asserts that no Muslims seek a "special status." Followers of the Legal Project might very well be skeptical of his protestations. The one-sided content of the OSCE guidelines and its inclusion of the OIC as a "resource" indicate that this is yet another way for Islamists to advance under the guise of victimization an authoritarian agenda to place Islamic beliefs above reproach in the free market of ideas. The end result of this agenda would be a diminishment of human rights such as freedom of speech and religionAndrew E. Harrod and Adam Turner
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