The Saudi-based Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) and the Morocco-based Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (IESCO) recently held a two-day London conference on countering islamophobia. The organisers of the symposium spoke of the need for a new media strategy as, “there is usually a spike in hate crimes against Muslims following terrorist acts perpetrated by Muslims.”
However, by Islamophobia the conference did not mean simply “anti-Muslim hatred.” One of the three central themes of the conference was the legal status of “defamation of religion.” This is a term that the OIC previously used to mean seeking to make criticism of Islam a criminal offence around the world. In fact, the section on islamophobia in the OIC’s 10 year strategy published in December 2005 only uses it in this sense and makes no reference at all to countering hatred of Muslims as people.
So, when the conference organisers spoke of looking at the role of the media in countering Islamophobia from a “legal perspective,” this appears to be what they meant. In fact, only last December the OIC launched a new media strategy, part of which aimed “to tackle Islamophobic discourse in the US, UK, and European media.”
There is also a broader picture here. As Barnabas Fund has previously reported, there are currently attempts being made by Pakistan, and 27 other governments who are OIC members, to introduce a global Islamic blasphemy law. In fact, as we report this week, the Palestinian Authority has recently enacted just such a law. These actions represent a serious threat not only to Christians in the 28 countries and other Muslim-majority countries, but also to Christians in the West, particularly those who have fled persecution in Islamic countries and found sanctuary in Western countries. It is particularly disturbing that the proposals from the Pakistan government seek to criminalise social media posts critical of Islam that are uploaded in Western countries.
So, although Dr. Mahjoub Bensaid, Head of Public Relations at ISESCO, spoke of “the real and true image of Islam as a religion of peace which advocates tolerance,” what he appears to have meant is that non-Muslims should “tolerate” the introduction of an Islamic blasphemy law that would prohibit any criticism of Islam by the media.
Barnabas Fund strongly condemns all forms of anti-Muslim hatred. However, we also condemn the attempt to use the suffering that has resulted from recent terrorist attacks to advocate the introduction of what is in effect, a backdoor Islamic blasphemy law.