Founded in 1971 and composed of 57 member states with Muslim-majority populations, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) is the largest Islamic body in the world. Other than the United Nations, it is also the largest international organization of any kind, representing an estimated 1.5 billion Muslims across the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
OIC’s manifold purpose is to promote Islamic values, revitalize Islam’s pioneering role in the world, strengthen and enhance the bond of solidarity among Muslim states, support “the Palestinian struggle,” and defend Islam generally. OIC’s charter professes a commitment to promoting peace and tolerance on the one hand, and to fighting terrorism on the other.
The organization’s actions, however, are dissonant with these stated aims.
For many years, OIC has been pushing incrementally toward its ultimate goal of outlawing, everywhere in the world, any and all criticism of Islamic people, practices, legal codes, and governments.
In the aftermath of 9/11, OIC’s quest to achieve this objective shifted into high gear when the group professed its concern about an angry backlash — which supposedly manifested itself with both words and deeds — against Muslims in the United States. But in fact, no such backlash ever occurred.
In 2005, OIC urged the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) to pass a resolution titled “Combating Defamation of Religions.” Although this title referred to “acts of discrimination, intimidation, hatred, and defamation” of religions generally, the text of the resolution cited only concerns pertaining to Islam. According to the resolution, media outlets around the world were unfairly portraying Islam in a negative fashion and were thereby inciting discrimination and intolerance against Muslims everywhere.
OIC further contended that any speculation about a connection between Islam and terrorism (or between Islam and human rights violations) was firmly rooted in the soil of Islamophobic bigotry. Moreover, said OIC, the definition of terrorism should be altered so as to exclude the killing of innocent civilians where the perpetrators are engaged in “legitimate resistance to foreign occupation” — a transparent reference to Palestinian suicide bombers in Israel.
The “Combating Defamation of Religions” initiative was formally passed on March 30, 2007, by a vote of 24 to 14.
Voting in favor were the following countries: Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Gabon, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, Philippines, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Tunisia.
Voting against the measure were these nations: Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Republic of Korea, Romania, Switzerland, Ukraine, and United Kingdom.
OIC’s insistence on prohibiting defamatory speech against Islamic practices and countries demanded no corollary ban on anti-Jewish or anti-Israel rhetoric. Indeed, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad candidly expressed his desire to eliminate the “Zionist regime” at an OIC Special Session in 2006. In addition, OIC backs Iran’s nuclear program, supports Hamas, and rationalizes the attacks of 9/11 as acts of retribution for American transgressions.
At its 2006 summit in Mecca, OIC adopted a zero-tolerance policy regarding insults against Islam, going so far as to include “hostile glances” in its definition of Islamophobic behavior. The immediate goal of the summit was to obtain “protection” for Islam in European parliaments and the UN Human Rights Council (which had replaced the UN Human Rights Commission in March 2006).
OIC also proposed the creation of an “Islamic Council of Human Rights” and a “Charter of Human Rights in Islam,” both of which would be based on Sharia (Islamic Law) and, as such, would entirely contradict some key tenets of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights — such as equality before the law; the right to a fair trial; freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; and freedom of opinion and expression.
In 2007, OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, widely considered to be a “moderate” Muslim professor from Turkey, used the UN’s “International Day of Tolerance” to assert that freedom of speech was unacceptable if it was used to criticize Islam. He said: