Saturday December 20, 2008 

Don't link Islam to terror, Islamic chief urges 

By Robert Evans 

GENEVA (Reuters) - The world's top diplomat for Islam called on 
Friday for an end to what he termed efforts to equate the religion 
with terrorism and said the 'demonisation' of Muslims around the 
world must be fought. 

Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Secretary-General 
Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu of Turkey attends the closing session of the two-
day OIC summit in Dakar, March 14, 2008, file photo. (REUTERS/Finbarr 
But speaking soon after the U.N. General Assembly passed an Islamic-
sponsored resolution condemning "defamation of religion" for the 
fourth year in a row, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said his group was 
committed to respecting freedom of expression. 

There was a "rising tide of incitement to religious hatred and 
discrimination and intolerance targeting Muslims", he told a meeting 
called by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) at the 
United Nations in Geneva. The 57-nation OIC, based in Saudi Arabia, 
represents 1.5 billion Muslims. 

"Attempts to equate Islam with terrorism should be stopped. 
Stereotyping and demonisation of Muslims should be combated," said 
Ihsanoglu, a Turkish history professor who became OIC Secretary-
General in 2005. 

In a statement on Ihsanoglu's remarks, Geneva spokesman for the 
International Humanist and Ethical Union Roy Brown argued that Islam 
was often linked to terror because perpetrators of many terrorist 
acts identify themselves as Muslims. 

Critics of the OIC -- including countries who voted against 
the "defamation" motion at U.N. headquarters in New York on Thursday -
- say many Islamic states use defamation or "blasphemy" laws against 
minorities and free-thinkers. 

Referring to the U.N. vote, in which for the first time since the OIC 
introduced a "defamation" motion in 2005 more countries voted against 
or abstained than voted for, Ihsanoglu said the motives of the 
Islamic grouping were misunderstood. 


The aim of the OIC, he declared, "is not to protect religion against 
critics based on objective and rational interrogation". The body, he 
added, "is firmly committed to respect for freedom of expression, 
which is a fundamental human right." 

In a statement issued earlier this week, watchdogs on freedom of 
expression for the U.N.'s Human Rights Council and for key regional 
inter-state organisations in Africa, Europe and Latin America called 
for an end to "defamation" resolutions. 

The four, three of them prominent developing country human rights 
lawyers, said that where "blasphemy" laws existed they had often been 
used "to prevent legitimate criticism of powerful religious leaders 
and to suppress the views of minorities, dissenting believers and non-

In an echo of their comments, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights 
Navi Pillay told Friday's meeting that when criticism of religion 
became incitement to hatred "urgent but proportionate" action should 
be taken. 

But, she added, "speech critical of religions does not necessarily 
constitute such incitement" and that it should always be 
assessed "stressing the importance of protecting the rights of both 
religious minorities and non-believers alike."

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