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OIC - Speech by his Excellency Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu

27 August 2009 - 05:14 PM GMT


Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference at the High-Level Segment of the Durban Review Conference

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to address this High-Level Segment of Durban Review Conference, dedicated to assessing the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action (DDPA). I would like, at the outset, to congratulate the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the excellent work done and you Mr. President for the able stewardship.

As the Secretary General of OIC- which represents 57 Member States- I would like to state that the OIC was constructively engaged with an open and positive mindset in the preparatory process of the Conference with a view to ensuring the very success that we intend to celebrate during the course of this week. The OIC Group’s active role and substantive inputs, widely acknowledged during the preparatory process, reflected the commitment of its membership to the objectives of the Conference.

It also needs to be acknowledged that discussion on some key issues during the negotiation of the outcome document was characterized by divergence of views. It must, however, be emphasized that the OIC Group never lacked the resolve to engage and work with its partners in good faith to reach a consensual outcome. In a bid to do that, the OIC Group demonstrated flexibility even on matters of major concern including defamation of religion with the intent to incitement to hatred and discrimination, as well as ascertaining the linkage of responsibility to the freedom of expression as stipulated in scores of international covenants, agreements and legal instruments. We are, however, disappointed and regret to note that some countries are not present here.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We, in the OIC, consider the DDPA an important milestone in the collective struggle of mankind against the scourge of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The collective resolve expressed by the United Nations and the international community in Durban 1 in 2001 constituted a turning point and a benchmark delineating the path to a world free from discrimination and intolerance.

At a time when we hoped that the implementation of DDPA will drastically reduce the manifestation of racism and intolerance, around the world, the criminal attacks of 9/11, 2001 resulted in reversing that positive trend, and in unleashing of negative campaign of hatred, discrimination and racial profiling against Muslims. The crimes of a few were generalized. It is indeed unfortunate that many Muslim communities and individuals have suffered from stigmatization and negative prejudice due to these condemnable acts of a small minority. It is, however, important to note that the recent conciliatory gestures and positive pronouncements from President Obama and some other world leaders have raised hopes and expectations in the Muslim world. We hope that these positive efforts will be strengthened and furthered with a view to reversing the trends that provided fertile ground for extremists to engage in incitement.

Today, defamation of Islam represents one of the most conspicuous demonstrations of contemporary racism and intolerance, and constitutes a threat to harmonious and cooperative relationship between and among nations. The campaign of Islamophobia, has adversely impacted the image, the honour, the cultural identity and the self-esteem of Muslims the world over, eroding their fundamental human rights. The situation calls for a frank and open discussion to consider the ultimate aim of those who are determined to pit one culture against another, and disseminate discord and conflicts among peoples. To that end, the OIC has always been willing to engage constructively with all stakeholders in identifying problems and finding solutions.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We believe that this Conference affords a valuable opportunity to discuss the contemporary plague of racism with a view to suggesting the most appropriate and practical solutions to deal with it. In that context, it is important to note that national laws alone cannot stem the rising tide of discrimination against Muslims, on the basis of their religion. It is alarming to see this trend spreading to the grass root communities. If we are to see a world free from discrimination and tension, we have to set up a framework to help us study the sources and root causes of this discrimination to deal with them promptly. We need also to analyze national laws and check if they are compatible with the provisions of international laws, covenants and treaties. This could be compiled in a single “universal document” as guidelines for legislation to counter discrimination and its root causes.

The proposals presented by the Special Representative on Racism, have also called for the establishment of national, regional and international monitoring bodies for racist and xenophobic acts including the OHCHR Observatory for racist incidents.

Excellencies,Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to stress that it would be counterproductive to speak of a contradiction between freedom of religion and freedom of expression. Indeed both are complementary and mutually reinforcing. Let me reiterate that the OIC stands for defending, upholding and protecting freedom of expression in accordance with the international law. The legal limitations on this freedom are provided for through International Covenants and Instruments. I am encouraged to note that this aspect has been reflected in the outcome document of this Review Conference.

It is my duty as Secretary-General of the OIC and as a Muslim scholar to underline that equality, non-discrimination, freedom of expression and respect to others regardless of their beliefs constitute core values of Islam. Indeed freedom of expression, critical thinking and creativity are prerequisite for ‘Ijtehad’- a most dynamic concept-which is among the sources of Islamic jurisprudence. Ijtehad literally means creative thinking to elaborate the Islamic law response to new and emerging issues. It demonstrates the universality and openness of to cope with developments that may arise through dynamic interpretation while remaining faithful to the guiding principles. This provides the Muslim world with the tool to promote universal human rights norms and standards with a view to providing a solution to new and contemporary challenges.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In a promising demonstration of the OIC’s readiness to assist in this endeavour, I am pleased to inform this august gathering of the progress towards setting up of an OIC Permanent Independent Human Rights Commission of the Organization. Following consultations by eminent human rights practitioners, governmental delegations met last week in Jeddah to discuss the outcome of these consultations and lay the first steps for the establishment of the Commission. I am confident that this Commission of independent experts will introduce a paradigm shift within OIC in the way universal human rights and freedoms flow together with Islamic values to offer a coherent and strong protection system aimed at facilitating the full enjoyment of all human rights in the Member States. The Commission’s work would certainly help evolve the mainstreaming of the universal human rights values in an ongoing process at the OIC that started with the adoption of the Cairo Declaration. I wish to thank the High Commissioner for Human Rights and her office for their positive and constructive support we are receiving in this regard.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The OIC had made it quite clear that the Durban Review Process is not and should not be a politically motivated process nor should it be an anti-semitic exercise. On the contrary, we view it as being an inclusive process, where all stakeholders are accorded freedom to address the real and serious challenges of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and Islamophobia.

This Conference rightly has not attempted to solve the conflict in the Middle East. However, it should be underlined that situations of military occupation are inherently conducive to violations of human rights and discriminatory treatment.

We, in the Muslim world, believe that God has created people with diverse tribes, languages and ethnicities. The divine wisdom has made of diversity the basic foundation of creation. We see the diversity in the universe and cosmos, as we see it, also around us in humanity as well as in nature. Cultural diversity is as essential for humankind as bio-diversity is for nature.

We also believe that man is the crown of creation and the vicegerent of God on earth. On this premise, we firmly believe that human rights are not man-given rights, they are rather sacred. This fact induces us to nurture, respect and uphold human rights. This could only be done through mutual understanding, dialogue in good faith and cooperation, with engagement to attain just and fair results. The consensual outcome at this Conference must consecrate our resolve for according primacy to multilateralism to build bridges when faced with divergent views. This consensus is a welcome augury that must lend optimism to our collective endeavours to realize our common aspirations. Let us tread the path of reconciliation and cooperation, and let us endeavour to make our small planet a house of cordiality, friendliness, peaceful co-existence, harmony and concord.


I thank you all.


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