Istanbul, 18th October, 2018: The Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) of the OIC held its 5th Annual Seminar on the topic of “Islamophobia: A Human Rights Violation and A Contemporary Manifestation of Racism” in collaboration with the Government of the Republic of Turkey in Istanbul on 17-18 October 2018. The two-day event was attended by IPHRC Members along with experts from academia, multilateral and intergovernmental organizations, as well as the representatives of OIC Member and Observer States including their National Human Rights Institutions. The event was inaugurated by H.E. Mr. Abdülhamit Gül, Minister of Justice of the Republic of Turkey, Mrs. Esra Albayrak, President of the OIC Women Consultative Council, and Dr. Rashid Al Balushi IPHRC Chairperson.
In his inaugural statement, Mr. Abdülhamit Gül stressed that Islamophobia should be considered as a human rights issue, and that the rise of Islamophobia worldwide without appropriate intervention will lead to further negative consequences on enjoyment of human rights in concerned societies. Mr. Gül condemned all theories of race supremacy, and added that current international mechanisms of protection against discrimination are not sufficient, which necessitate appropriate reforms to establish a fair international system. Mr. Gül emphasized that the Muslim world must also do its part in this reform process to fight against discrimination, including Islamophobia. In this regard, he highlighted the rich heritage of human rights in Islam which must serve as a comprehensive guide to fight discrimination and racism in all its forms.
H.E. Dr. Esra Albayrak, President of the OIC Women Consultative Council stressed that Islamophobia is being nurtured by the same discriminatory practices that shaped antisemitism in Europe. Ironically, those who suffered from racism and discrimination in the past are now carrying out similar offenses on others such as Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. To this end, Dr. Albayrak recommended the application of same efforts and measures used against antisemitism to combat Islamophobia. On the gender aspect of Islamophobia, Dr. Albayrak highlighted that Muslim women represent the majority of victims of Islamophobia, especially when they carry symbols of faith such as hijab. Muslim women also confront everyday with tremendous challenges to protect their right to practice religion and raise their kids.
Speaking on behalf of the OIC Secretary General, Amb Hassan Ali stressed that Islamophobia is not only a core concern for the Islamic World but also a subject of critical importance for the entire international community as it portends a genuine threat to the global peace and security. He added that in today’s multicultural societies, it is imperative to reconcile the right to freedom of expression with other rights, such as the right to freedom of religion and the right to be free from discrimination. To this end, he stressed the need to formulate legally binding instruments to cover this new manifestation of racism.
Dr. Rashid Al Balushi, the IPHRC Chairperson, highlighted that religious convictions and ethical values constitute an integral part of identity in many societies. Hence, attacking religious beliefs is considered as an attack on their individual and collective identity. It is, therefore, essential to draw a line between free and hate speech to maintain social cohesion. Dr. Al Balushi highlighted the continued engagement of the OIC and IPHRC at all levels in terms of raising awareness and effective implementation of the UN resolution 16/18 to combat all forms of discrimination based on one’s religion or belief. Furthermore, to combat Islamophobia as a manifestation of racism, he stressed the need to bridge the gulf of misunderstanding which has led to the rise of stereotyping of Muslims and associated acts of intolerance and discrimination.
During the intensive discussions of the Seminar, relevant international experts and representatives of Member States dwelt on different aspects of Islamophobia and reflected on the root causes and practices of this discriminatory behavior. The Seminar also discussed existing legislations, implementation gaps and best practices at the national, regional and international levels to combat discrimination based on one’s race and religion, including lacunae in their implementation with a view to providing requisite safeguards against such discrimination. Among other recommendations, the Seminar called for criminalizing certain manifestations of hate speech, including Islamophobia, in accordance with international human rights law, to preserve multiculturalism and pluralistic societies.
The Seminar also stressed the need to scale up international efforts to build a shared understanding to combat all forms of racism, which continues to plague many societies in its various manifestations and seriously undermines as well as adversely affects people’s human rights. The importance of promoting pluralism, respect for cultural diversity, active, and meaningful intercultural dialogue for enhancing healthy multicultural societies was also emphasized.
At the conclusion of the Seminar, the IPHRC adopted a set of key findings and recommendations as the outcome document of the Seminar, which proposes practical measures involving multiple stakeholders to combat Islamophobia at different levels while meeting international human rights obligations and safeguarding respective religious and cultural particularities of all societies.
The Commission, while acknowledging the important role of the Republic of Turkey in combatting Islamophobia, expressed its profound gratitude to its Government for their warm hospitality and support for hosting the Seminar.