Muslim leaders plan legal action to counter Islamophobia

Dakar – (IINA) March 16, 2008 – The Muslim world has created a battle plan to defend its religion from bigoted cartoonists and politicians. Concerned about what they see as a rise in the defamation of Islam, leaders of the world’s Muslim nations are considering legal action against those who slight their religion or its sacred personalities. This was a key issue during a two-day summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) that ended on Friday in the Senegalese capital Dakar. The plan represents an attempt to demand redress from nations like Denmark, which allowed the publication of cartoons caricaturing Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Though the type of legal action the OIC could take is not fully spelled out, the threat pits the Muslim world against the principles of freedom of speech enshrined in the constitutions of numerous Western governments. “I don’t think freedom of expression should mean freedom to blaspheme,” said Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade, chairman of the 57-member OIC. “There can be no freedom without limits.”

Delegates at the summit were given a voluminous report recording anti-Islamic speech and action around the world. It cites the publication of the Danish cartoons, as well as articles by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born woman who claims women do not have rights under Islam. 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,” said OIC Secretary-General Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu. To protect the faith, Muslim nations have already 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. The report, which was presented on Friday, urges the creation of a “legal instrument” to crack down on the defamation of Islam, but it is unclear what kind of legal action could be taken.

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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 made stronger. “In our relation with the Western world, we are going through a difficult time,” Prof. Ihsanoglu told the Summit. “Islamophobia cannot be dealt with only through cultural activities but (through) a robust political engagement,” he said.

16 Mar 2008