OIC fleshes out action strategy in Gabon to combat Islamophobia

By Abdullah Bozkurt
Meeting in Libreville, the capital of Gabon, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the largest intergovernmental organization after the UN, is putting its strategy to work in combating what it calls “rising intolerance against Islam and Muslims in the West.”

The OIC conference includes a number of far-reaching proposals, including but not limited to launching an OIC Satellite Channel, setting up a Journalist Union and establishing the OIC Broadcasting Regulatory Authorities Union to address issues of Muslims worldwide.

The Ninth Session of the Islamic Conference of Information Ministers of the member states of the OIC will officially launch these projects on Thursday under the chairmanship of the West African nation Gabon. The committee meetings laying the groundwork for information ministers, who were expected to attend the proceedings from 57 countries, were completed on Wednesday.

Information, media and communications are among the top issues on the agenda of the OIC meeting in Libreville. The draft resolutions envisage developing an integrated information plan to communicate with non-OIC member states and launching an Islamic TV Satellite channel under the name of the OIC. The new items on the agenda this year include establishing an OIC Muslim Journalists Union, preparing special information programs on Africa to project and promote its place and role in the Muslim world and making progress with regard to the establishment of the OIC Broadcasting Regulatory Authorities Union.

The resolution says negative news in some Western media has resulted in negative stereotyping and racial discrimination and victimization directed against Muslims. Stressing that the Islamic faith is based on the core values of peace, tolerance, moderation and peaceful co-habitation with all other religions and beliefs, the OIC labeled the emergence of Islamophobia as a “contemporary form of racism and xenophobia motivated by unfounded fear, mistrust and hatred of Muslims and Islam.” It also added that Islamophobia manifested itself “through intolerance, discrimination, hostility and adverse public discourse.”

The OIC also dismissed suggestions that Islamophobia is equal to classical racism and xenophobia, saying that Islamophobia is mainly based on stigmatization of a religion and its followers. “As such, Islamophobia is an affront to the human rights and dignity of Muslims,” the resolution claimed.

The OIC has been working on a comprehensive plan to combat prejudice against Islam and Muslim communities with a view to developing campaigns to foster respect for cultural and religious pluralism and diversity, while raising awareness of the positive contributions of Muslims to promote tolerance and understanding.

The Gabon conference has short, medium and long term goals for putting in place an action plan to fight Islamophobia. It asks member states to create funding for media campaigns to counter intolerance against Islam and discourage using expressions such as “Islamic” fascists or “Islamic” extremists for criminal terrorists. The OIC underlines the importance of developing Muslim’s own narrative on daily issues such as the environment, climate change, social justice, development, poverty, etc.

For the medium term, the resolution asks member states to implement media literacy programs in schools to combat misperceptions, prejudices and hate speech. It aims to utilize success stories in the Muslim world “as a means to show that the interests of Muslims are similar to the rest of the world when it comes to democracy, good governance and human rights.” The resolution even plans to create awards for excellence in unbiased journalism, reporting, photography and publishing.

According to the long term goals of the OIC media resolution, professional media people in member states are called to “develop, articulate and implement voluntary codes of conduct.” It sets up scholarship programs for Westerners to study in the Muslim world and encourage reporter-exchange programs between the Muslim world and the West in order to disseminate this information throughout media outlets.

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