OIC STATEMENT ON AGENDA ITEM 6 :
RACISM, RACIAL DISCRIMINATION, XENOPHOBIA
AND ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION,
58th Session of the Commission on Human Rights,
Geneva, 21 March 2002
1. The delegation of Malaysia is making this statement under agenda item 6 on behalf of the member states of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. As this is the first time I am taking the floor, let me congratulate you on your election as Chairman of this Session. Our congratulations also go to other members of the Bureau. We reaffirm our commitment in supporting you and the Bureau in carrying out your duties towards a successful conclusion of this meeting.
2. The Durban World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance had raised the awareness of the international community on the important issue of racism. For those who were involved with the conference, it would be remembered as among the most difficult international conferences convened under the auspices of the United Nations. Hard work had been put in prior to and during the conference in the effort to achieve consensus in combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. On the part of the OIC, we had joined the consensus in our earnest desire to move forward. The OIC countries look forward to the implementation of the Declaration and Programme of Action including the appointment of the independent eminent experts and the establishment of the Anti-Discrimination Unit of the OHCHR. The OIC member countries reiterate our assurance to the High Commissioner of our cooperation and support in the implementation of the outcome of the Durban Conference.
3. While we had worked hard towards the successful conclusion of the Durban Conference, we are dismayed that the events of "September 11" have had a negative impact on our efforts to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. "September 11" had provoked racist reactions against Muslims, Arabs and other Middle Eastern groups in a number of Western countries. There have been an increase in insults and physical assaults against members of Muslim communities and destruction of properties including places of worship and cultural centres. This was confirmed by the report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. (Document E/CN.4/2002/24 of 13 February 2002).
4. The members of the OIC are alarmed and deeply concerned by this unfortunate trend. We see this as a grave assault on the basic human rights of people who are adherents to a religion that promotes peace and love. We reiterate our call made earlier by Pakistan under Agenda Item 4, who had spoken on behalf of the OIC, for the office of the High Commissioner to commission a study on the implications of these racially motivated attacks against Muslim and Arab people with appropriate recommendations for the prevention of such attacks and destruction of property. In the meantime, we urge those who perpetuate these cowardly attacks against the peace-loving Muslims and their properties to immediately stop such senseless actions.
5. The OIC member countries are also deeply concerned at the vile propaganda aimed at demeaning Islam as a religion that promotes violence, vengeance and intolerance. Remarks and comments by so-called ‘experts’ on Islam presenting their loose interpretations of the religion, in particular the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, had further tarnished our religion. We are appalled by such irresponsible acts which would only create more intolerance among religions and xenophobia around the world. For the sake of humanity, we urge these people to cease such action. Instead, we appeal to them to foster dialogue among civilizations for cooperation and co-existence in order to promote harmony and tolerance among all religions and races.
6. We note that the media’s lopsided representation of Islam could contribute further to acts of racism and xenophobia committed against Muslims. We deeply regret misrepresentations which portray acts of violence, injustice and extremities as synonymous with Islam. Extreme and heinous acts by so-called Muslims should never be generalized and extrapolated to mean that Islam is a religion that promotes violence and destruction. On the contrary, Islam propagates peace, love and tolerance. It would be a gross injustice to make a simplistic conclusion to equate Islam and violence. If we go by this simplistic and short-sighted conclusion, than other religions too will be deemed to be as destructive if their adherents commit similarly heinous crimes. It is perplexing to note that there are groups that openly promote their cause based on their religious belief through violent means but were never referred to in the media by the religion that they practice. Why should there be double standards on this matter when the media could be so outright when it involves Muslims? In all fairness, it is incumbent upon the media not to profile violent acts by certain people as synonymous with Islam.
7. The media as a powerful tool for channelling information must act more responsibly in providing fair, correct and balanced reporting, particularly on sensitive issues relating to religion. Irresponsible reporting has damaging effects with far reaching consequences and would contribute to discord and disharmony among religions and races. This would indeed be a disservice to humanity. As the famous adage goes, "the pen is mightier than the sword". In this fast-paced world of modern technology, the ‘pen’ would even be more lethal and the effect almost instantaneous. Those with the ‘pen’ must always take cognizance of this reality. While we recognize the rights of the media, the media in turn should always be mindful of their underlying responsibility towards the well-being of mankind.
8. Let me stress, and stress again, that Islam is a religion of peace. It promotes and teaches adherence to peace, moderation, tolerance and love. It condemns all acts of violence and aggression. The fight against terrorism must not and should never be allowed to be perceived as a war against Islam. We as right-minded and responsible people who are concerned about human rights are duty bound to correct any misperception in this regard.
9. As a result of "September 11" the OIC acknowledges that there is a need to educate the general public on the tenets, values and fundamentals of Islam. It is towards these objectives that the OIC organised the Symposium on Human Rights in Islam, in Geneva from 14-15 March 2002 at the United Nations. An elite group of Muslim scholars, thinkers and researchers were invited to disseminate the principles and values of human rights in Islam. We noted that the symposium was well attended by various groups of people. It is our hope that the true message that Islam promotes has been spread through this symposium.
10. Needless to say, the world belongs to everyone, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It is therefore incumbent upon each and every one of us to ensure that the world would be a safe place to live in. A right move towards this direction is to discard religious intolerance and discriminatory actions based on colour, religion and creed. We have begun work on this in Durban. There is no option but to soldier on with our work to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. United we stand, divided we fall.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman.