A Collective Stance against Islamophobia

A Collective Stance against Islamophobia

By H.E. Mr. Mustafa Şentop, Speaker of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey,

The term of Islamophobia is broadly described and acknowledged as the fear, bias and hostility against the religion of Islam, its tenets and its believers. However, this lexicographic definition of Islamophobia is a shallow one, which falls short of explaining the substantiated dimension of violence and discrimination deriving from the hatred against Muslims. Thus, instead of Islamophobia, I hereby suggest that we should call it hatred-against Islam to have a comprehensive and solid understanding of the issue before us.

The virus of hatred-against Islam (and against its followers) is spreading from the shores of Far East to the heart of the USA and from one end of Oceania to the capitals of Europe poisoning wherever it passes. Henceforward, the alarming rise of hatred-against Islam that we witness and experience today is pointing out an obvious fact: hatred-against Islam is not unique to any geography or culture or nation. Just like racism and xenophobia, it is a global problem along with several dimensions that cannot be overcome by a single actor. Then, the world must realize the urgent need of international cooperation in order to counter hatred-against Islam and prevent further contagion of this anomaly.

With almost 5 million Turkish citizens living abroad, Turkey has been going through tragic experiences due to series of violent attacks, discriminatory policies and deliberate judicial delays. Especially in the Western Europe, there have been a clear inflation in the attacks targeting Turkish communities. While 75 violent attacks took place in 2014, Turks living in the Western Europe were exposed to 97 assaults in the year of 2018. By and large, hatred-against Islam and its repercussions are not new to Turkey.

Being an active and committed member of the international community, Turkey sets an inspiring example of how to fight hatred-against Islam on international level. Particularly, during its Summit Chairmanship of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) between 2016 and 2019, Turkey spearheaded a number of efforts for countering hatred-against Islam by advocating the rights and freedoms of the Muslims across the globe and mobilizing the international community.

At this point, it is worth mentioning about the manifest role of H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the President of the Republic of Turkey, who voiced the common concern of the Ummah and steered the OIC to take immediate actions in the face of grave incidents that aggrieved fellow Muslims in different parts of the world. During the Turkish Summit Chairmanship of the OIC under the leadership of H.E. President Erdoğan, the plight of Muslim minorities all over the world were rightly brought to forefront as core issues of the Organization.

In addition to activating the OIC, Turkey has been contributing to the capacity building efforts in the combat of hatred-against Islam on other levels. The 5th of the annual seminar of the OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC), which is the dynamo of the OIC regarding human rights matters, was held in Istanbul on 17-18 October 2018 with the theme of “Islamophobia: A Human Rights Violation and a Contemporary Manifestation of Racism”. The declaration adopted in the seminar put forth important aspects of hatred-against Islam such as the lack of legal gap to implement sanctions on hate crimes i.e. defamation and the absence of a close examination of the political and ideological background of the violent attacks against Muslims.

Nevertheless, what I referred as international cooperation earlier could be seen best by looking at the timely and significant initiatives taken by the OIC at critical junctures, during Turkey’s Summit Chairmanship.

Most recently and more crucially, on 22 March 2019, as the OIC Summit Chair, Turkey called upon holding an emergency meeting in Istanbul for discussing increasing violence related to hatred-against Islam, racism and xenophobia, in particular to the terrorist attack targeted two mosques in New Zealand on 15 March 2019. Upon the invitation of Turkey, the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister together with the Minister for Ethnic Communities of New Zealand also attended the meeting. Terrorism, regardless of the target or the motivation, is a global threat that leaves the very same deep scar wherever it touches. However, the Christchurch terrorist attack was an overextension, not only because it caused death of 51 Muslims in a sacred house of prayer, but it also unveiled the fact that religion based violence can even reach to the most harmonious and intra-tolerant societies.

The Final Communique adopted at the end of this meeting by the OIC Member States, which is a comprehensive and well-developed document on the issue, acted as a catalyzer and paved the way for adoption of the Resolution on “Combating terrorism and other acts of violence based on religion or belief” on 2 April 2019 by consensus in the UN General Assembly.

As an another output of the said meeting Turkey contends that the OIC Contact Group on Peace and Dialogue led by Indonesia convened for the first time on 30 July 2019 in Jakarta with a mission to draft a Plan of Action to combat Islamophobia. For the first time in the history of the OIC there appeared a light of hope to fight hatred-against Islam, its institutions and followers under this serious plan. We, as the Parliaments being the very representatives of our people should also endorse this Plan.

Ultimately, the most reliable and reasonable way to cope with hatred-against Islam and intolerance is engagement at the international level. Since the problem of hatred-against Islam is a multilayered and global threat, likewise, the solution should be built upon the same scheme. And yet, cooperation just among state actors including their various organs along with Parliaments does not suffice to ensure the ultimate success. As in the case of OIC during Turkey’s Summit Chairmanship, international organizations should also cooperate more to establish, promote and preserve universal values in order to eradicate deep rooted and ideologically motivated violent and verbal attacks against people based on their religious beliefs, notably Muslims.

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