REPORT

REPORTS OF THE SECRETARY GENERAL

ON

THE QUESTION OF MUSliM COMMUNITIES AND MINORITIES

TO THE TWENTY-SIXTH SESSION OF THE ISLAMIC CONFERENCE OF FOREIGN MINISTERS

OUAGADOUGOU, BURKINA FASO

28 JUNE – 1 JULY 1999

 

 

Safegurding the Rights of the Muslim Communities and Minorities in non-OIC Member States

The Question of Muslims in Southern Philippines

The Question of Turkish Muslim Minorities in Western Thrace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REPORT OF THE SECRETARY GENERAL

ON

SAFEGUARDING THE RIGHTS OF THE MUSliM COMMUNITIES AND MINORITIES IN NON-OIC. MEMBER STATES

TO THE TWENTY-SIXTH SESSION OF THE ISLAMIC CONFERENCE OF FOREIGN MINISTERS

OUAGADOUGOU, BURKINA FASO

28 JUNE – 1 JULY 1999

The Intergovernmental Group of Experts on the Consideration of the Conditions of Muslim Communities in Non-OIC Member States set up by Resolution No. 37/23-P of the Twenty third Session of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers held in Conakry, the Republic of Guinea from 17 to 21 Rajab 1416 (9-12 December 1996), held four meetings.

2. The recommendations of the Expert Group underlined the need to follow up the conditions of Muslim minorities and communities in non- Member States very closely as they constitute an integral part of the Islamic world. The Group is aware that the attempts and efforts aimed at finding appropriate solutions to the problems of Muslim minorities will not be fruitful without the agreement of majorities and minorities that respecting human rights is a cultural principle that cannot be ignored or overlooked.

3. Ever since its inception, the OIC has been considering the issue of minorities and communities in non-Member States. It adopted numerous resolutions thereon aimed at ensuring the promotion of the religious and civil rights of these communities and minorities.

4- Islamic Summit and Ministerial conferences urged Member States to continue paying attention to the problems confronting Muslim minorities and communities. They also expressed deep concern over the violation of the basic freedoms and rights of these communities and minorities. They called for establishing the necessary contacts at both the individual and collective levels, with the governments of non- OIC Member States with a view to ensuring full respect for individual and collective freedoms of these minorities.

5- In pursuance of the above, the Twenty- third Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers decided to set up a Group of Intergovernmental Experts to consider the conditions of Muslim minorities and communities and the problems confronting them in search for appropriate solutions for them within the framework of the sovereignty of the states in which they live.

6- The meetings of the above-mentioned Group reached a set of recommendations that may be summarized as follows:

(a) To entrust the General Secretariat with preparing a document on the working methodology of the Group and communicating it to the Member States for consideration and adoption.

(b) To establish a Contact Group at the level of Permanent Representatives of the Member States in Geneva and New York to monitor cases of violation of the rights of Muslim communities and minorities, together with the possibility of holding the meetings of the Contact Group at Ministerial level.

(c) In coordination with the General Secretariat, the Member States are to exert efforts to secure the greatest amount of guarantees stipulated by international instruments on minority rights for Muslim minorities and communities in non-OIC Member States; among these instruments is the Declaration on Minority Rights, the Declaration on Eliminating all Forms of Bias and Discrimination based on Religion or Belief.

(d) It is necessary for the Member States and the General Secretariat to closely follow up the conditions of Muslim communities and minorities in non-OIC Member States and to establish an advanced and renewable data base at the General Secretariat by using all available means.

(e) The General Secretariat is to conduct contacts with the governments of States where Muslim communities and minorities have a problem of violation of rights, aimed at finding a cooperation formula with the OIC in order to improve their conditions.

(f) To consider the possibility of obtaining observer status for the OIC at UN international committees concerned with minorities and human rights.

7- In implementation of the recommendations of the Third meeting of the Intergovernmental Group Of Experts on the Consideration of the Conditions of Muslim Minorities and Communities in non- Member States, the OIC General Secretariat addressed, on 13.3.1997, Notes to Member States on the establishment of a data base on minorities (para three of the recommendations). However, the General Secretariat received few replies thereto from Member States.

8. In implementation of paragraph four of the above-mentioned recommendations, two Contact Groups have been constituted in New York and Geneva. They are performing their activities in coordination with the General Secretariat and its offices in the two cities. The above-mentioned Groups comprise:

The Republic of Bangladesh, the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Malaysia, the Kingdom of Morocco, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Republic of Senegal, the Republic of Turkey, the Republic of Indonesia and the OIC General Secretariat.

9. In implementation of the ninth paragraph of the recommendations, the OIC endeavoured to use its observer status at the UNO to participate in the UN fora concerned with minorities and human rights affairs.

Within the framework of defending the rights of Muslim minorities and communities in non- Member States, the OIC Group participated in the deliberations of the Sub-commission on Protecting Minorities and Combating Biased Procedures, held in Geneva from 4 to 29 August 1997, to defend the image of Islam in general and to ensure the rights of Muslim minorities in particular.

The Group defended the Islamic States and obliged the Chairman of the Committee to review the continued violation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian and Arab territories.

Some non-governmental and non-Islamic organizations attended the meeting and launched an attack against Islam, which prompted the Chairman of the Islamic Group to deliver a statement in which he denounced anti-Islamic ideas.

11. The participation of the General Secretariat in the proceedings of the recent session of the Human Rights Commission, held in Geneva in March 1997, comes within this framework.

12. In cooperation with the center of Islamic Call in Brazil, the OIC General Secretariat organized the first international symposium on Islam in Latin America in Saint Paolo from 5 to 8 Muhrram 1419/H (1-4 May 1998). The title of the symposium was “Cultural Dimensions and Human Relations”.

The objective of the symposium was to rectify the image of Islam in the outside world and to remove any misunderstanding or distortion of its values or principles. The symposium was also aimed at linking Muslims in Brazil and Latin America to the Islamic world and safeguarding the identities of Muslim minorities and communities in non-OIC Member States.

13- The Twelfth Session of the Committee on Coordination of Joint Islamic Action of the Organization of the Islamic Conference was held in Teheran from 27 to 29 Muharram 1419h (23-25 May 1998). The participants considered the status of the Islamic world and the conditions of Muslims and ways of promoting Muslims and confronting the challenges threatening them. The meeting underlined the need for serious efforts to ensure the rights of Muslim minorities and communities.

14- The OIC General Secretariat participated in the Meeting of the Expert Committee on the Elaboration of a Work Plan for Safeguarding the Rights of Muslim Minorities and Communities in non-Member States, held in Madrid, Spain by the League of Islamic Culture and Relations in the Islamic Republic of Iran in coordination with the General Secretariat from 12 to 14 December 1998. Participants in the meeting presented a set of recommendations based on the need to endavour to save some Muslim communities from assimilation in non- Muslim societies among which these minorities live, and to provide the appropriate effective means for the protection of the religious, cultural and social identity as well as all legitimate rights of the these minorities.

15. Follow up of the conditions of Muslim communities and minorities in the various continents necessitates, in general, further efforts in order to persuade the authorities where violations of the rights of Muslim minorities occur to respect such rights.

16. The Muslim World should not forget the destructive war imposed on the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina and should continue efforts to defend the Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Sanjak in order to guarantee their civil and religious rights.

17- While the Serbian forces continue their aggression against Muslims in Kosovo following the scorched earth policy in line with the approach they adopted in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the international community in general and the Islamic world n particular should endeavour to put an end to the massive violations of human rights therein.

18- On the occasion of the celebration of the Fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, H.E. the OIC Secretary General pointed out at the meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission held in Geneva from 16 March to 24 April 1998, that human rights constitute an imprescreptible principle established in the teachings of all Revealed Messages.

19. The Secretary General presents this report to the Twenty-sixth Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers for consideration and appropriate action.

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REPORT OF THE SECRETARY GENERAL

ON

THE QUESTION OF MUSliMS IN SOUTHERN PHIliPPINES

TO THE TWENTY-SIXTH SESSION OF THE ISLAMIC CONFERENCE OF FOREIGN MINISTERS

OUAGADOUGOU, BURKINA FASO

28 JUNE – 1 JULY 1999

After Muslims in the Southern Philippines resisted central government control for over 30 years — a struggle that left 150,000 Muslims dead, the Moro National liberation Front (MNLF) signed a peace agreement, Sept. 2, 1996, with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, with the active participation and involvement of the OIC Ministerial Committee of six on following up the question of Muslims in the Southern Philippines and the Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). The establishment of peace in the Southern Philippines consisted in setting up a Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD) and a Consultative Council chaired by Dr. Nur Misuari, the MNLF leader.

2 - The SPCPD chairman coordinates the development programs and projects sponsored by the Philippines government in 14 districts and 9 cities in Mindanao, i.e. those districts and cities that had been declared as a Special Zone of Peace and Development (SZOPD). But MNLF officials are complaining of slowness in implementing the peace deal. It is common knowledge that the MNLF is responsible for uplifting the area’s economy prior to establishing the Government of the province’s autonomous region, following a referendum due to be held three years counting from the date on which the agreement was signed, i.e. this year 1999.

3 - In accordance with executive order no.7 by President Estrada, dated 30 September, 1998, the Philippines was divided into seven administrative areas attached to the Presidency of the State. Thus Mindanao was divided into two administrations. The six administrative area is made up of five of the SPCPD zones. Each administrative area consists of four of the 14 SPCPD zones and five of the above-mentioned Council, despite the fact that the areas which fall within the jurisdiction of the SPCPD have a special status for their being a special zone of peace and development.

4 - The Filipino government acts through a popular body, the NPUD SOCIO-ECONOMIC ASSISTANCE, independent from the SPCPD. This Committee operates in the SZOPD without the participation of the SPCPD, to isolate it from its mission.

5 - Regarding infrastructure projects, such as the one aimed at renovating an airport in the city of Jolo, the project is still idle and neglected. Similarly, the road surfacing project for cars in Sulu province has ground to a halt because of failure to secure the agreed budget for the projects in question, although the Philippines Government had earmarked a 41.9 billion peso budget for the execution of development projects in Mindanao. But nothing was spent from that budget for the implementation of the said projects, except for 2 billion pesos only. As for the project of building a residential area, only 13 units of it have been built but they have been without electricity and water for approximately three years now.

6 - Scores of big fishing boats have indulged in criminal acts between the heavily populated islands, with a license from the Government. They spread the smaller fishing boats belonging to Muslims with a barrage of fire, leaving a heavy toll. The Filipino Government did not pay any heed and turned a deaf ear to the complaints lodged with it by the island inhabitants.

7 - SPCPD chief of staff Otto Salem Kotan said that had it not been for some humanitarian assistance received from international philanthropic foundations no development project whatsoever would have been achieved.

8 - The MNLF is on the verge of losing its credibility with its people and Mujahideen freedom fighters because of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines procrastination, prevarication and filibuster tactics with regard to the implementation of the peace agreement.

9 - The promotion of development and real peace in the Southern Philippines require the active and constructive participation of both the Government and the MNLF, but because the former failed so far to honor its commitments, the latter could not get the necessary budgetary allocations for the infrastructure projects, which has compromised the SPCPD’s credibility.

10 - Moreover, the formation of governmental bodies charged to implement the projects in the South without cooperating with the SPCPD, which is entrusted with development, security and peace-related matters, and preparations to set up the Autonomy Council for the 14 regions are maneuvers to try and convince public opinion in the southern part of the country that the Council did nothing in favor of inhabitants of the autonomous region. Such a trick is made to adversely affect the future of the planned plebescite on the autonomy.

11 - The Government of the Republic of the Philippines is, at present, using the economic weapon against the SPCPD — now the provisional autonomous ruler in the 14 provinces. This is tantamount to exposing the MNLF to possible failure in the referendum, same as it means, on the legal plane, keeping it away from administering the areas specified in the September 2, 1996 peace accord, which would definitely lead to the collapse of the agreement and plunge the Muslims in circumstances and conditions whose outcome could only be known to Allah.

12 - Given the precarious situation in the Southern Philippines, H.E. Prof. Nur Misuari, governor of the autonomy in question and MNLF chairman, sent a memorandum, a few months ago, to President Estrada, requesting an extension of the SPCPD’ mandate will the year 2003. Commenting on the issue, Ambassador Manuel said that the Philippines Government negotiator had called the peace council chairman to tell him that postponing till the year 2003 the referendum on the autonomy in 14 provinces was extremely difficult, owing to the fact that the Agreement had already set the date for the plebescite, making it part of the Law. Therefore, any amendment of the agreement would require the amendment of some of the provisions of the peace deal.

Based on the MNLF’s determination to pursue its mission in the Southern Philippines and keen on averting the collapse of the definitive peace agreement signed on September 2, 1996, the Presidency of the SPCPD recommends the following:

- That OIC Member States redouble their assistance to salvage and uplift the peace and development area whose population exceeds ten millions.

- That the participation of the MNLF in all the activities of the OIC and its subsidiary and specialized organs, foremost among which is the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) be reinforced.

- That the parties concerned and involved in the cause of Muslims in the Southern Philippines — the OIC in the first place — may throw their weight behind the plea submitted to the Government of the Philippines by the Presidency of the SPCPD to put off the plebescite till the year 2003 to enable the MNLF carry out its mission properly and in the best possible manner to consolidate peace and development in the southern part of the country.

13 - The OIC Secretary-General is continuing his contacts in following up the implementation of the peace agreement by encouraging both parties to further their mutual understanding and cooperation. He reaffirms the OIC’s support to the efforts aimed at establishing peace in the Southern Philippines in a way that would respect the sovereignty of the State of the Philippines.

In the meantime, the Secretary-General calls upon the two sides of the peace agreement to carry on the task of facilitating the implementation of the said agreement. He urges the Government of the Republic of the Philippines to proceed with the necessary steps in a spirit of understanding to speed up the implementation of the peace accord.

14 - The Secretary-General is confident that carrying out the peace agreement would undoubtedly make it possible for the SPCPD and the Advisory Council to play their role in favor of development, progress and stability there.

The Moro Islamic liberation Front (MILF)

15 - The MILF is the second most credible and important Muslim organization after the MNLF. The MILF was established in 1978 as a splinter group from the MNLF.

16 - The Filipino Government conducted a series of negotiations with the MILF at the time it managed to sign a peace agreement with the MNLF (1996). Nevertheless, the armed struggle resumed thereafter between the MNLF and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, leading to a heavy death toll. As the battle area widened, tens of thousands of Muslims fled. Incidents point to the fact that members and supporters of the MNLF are the target of government-led military operations. Under such difficult circumstances, the MNLF is taking the necessary measures to reshuffle its military command for a better self-defense.

17 - The MNLF’s main claim is to set up and independent Islamic state in the areas it controls.

The Abu Sayyaf Group

18 - The Abu Sayyaf Group ranks third in terms of the number of men and the strength. It is an independent Islamic group fighting its way against government forces into recognition of Muslim rights. The movement’s leader Abdul Razzaq Jinjilani was killed, December 18, 1998, in a clash with government forces. But while the Abu Sayyaf Group is considered as an Islamic movement whose goal is to recover the Muslims’ rights, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines views it as an extremist, terrorist movement. With its five hundred (500) fighters, the Group is conducting its activities in Basilan and Sulu.

19 - The current state of affairs of Muslims in the Southern Philippines compels them to rethink their course of action in the quest for adequate resolutions to the problems faced by the area’s Muslims. It also makes it incumbent upon the Islamic world and its institutions to assist the Muslims there for fulfilling the double objective of peace and development.

20 - The Secretary-General submits the present report to the 26th ICFM for whatever action it may deem proper in this regard.

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REPORT OF THE SECRETARY GENERAL

ON

THE QUESTION OF TURKISH MUSliM MINORITIES IN WESTERN THRACE

TO THE TWENTY-SIXTH SESSION OF THE ISLAMIC CONFERENCE OF FOREIGN MINISTERS

OUAGADOUGOU, BURKINA FASO

28 JUNE – 1 JULY 1999

The Islamic Conference considers the question of the Turkish Muslim minority within the issues relating to Muslim Communities and Minorities in non-OIC Member States where the rights of these communities and minorities are consistently violated. In this context, the OIC adopted resolutions aimed at respecting the civil and religious rights of the Turkish Muslim Community in Western Thrace.

The relationship between the Greek authorities and the Muslim Turkish minority has been set out by Luzan Agreement, concluded between Turkey and Greece, in 1923. This agreement stipulates that the Muslims have the right to speak their own Turkish language; to freely exercise their religious rites; to choose their own representatives in religious affairs and in the public posts as well, and to invest their funds in such a manner that serves their own interests without any pressures or restrictions, as well as the possibility of exchanging populations between the two countries (Turkey and Greece).

In accordance with the Luzan Agreement, Turkish Muslims living outside Western Thrace were exchanged for the Christian Greek minority in Istanbul, Turkey. The Turkish Muslim minority in Western Thrace continues to face suppression by Greek authorities.

Article (40) of the Agreement stipulated their right (Turkish Muslim Minority), like the others, to establish any philanthropic, religious, social and educational institutions at their own expense. They have also the right to manage and supervise these institutions as well as the right to freely exercise their religious rites.

In addition to the Luzan Agreement, the Athena Agreement, signed in 1913, stipulates that the Muslim minority should elect their own religious leaders (Fatwa people). However, the Greek authorities disregard their international obligations towards the Turkish Muslim minority. They completely and regularly violated the rights of this minority. The Greek government does not recognize Turkish institutions in Western Thrace and rejects the fact that the majority of the Muslims of Thrace are Turks.

The Greek government continues to oppress the Muslim minority in Western Thrace by adopting a law that connects areas of this minority with neighbouring regions for election purposes. In this way Muslims are denied their right to elect any Muslim official or representative.

Greek authorities allege that Fatwa people are not only religious but persons assuming administrative and legal affairs, and therefore, the Greek government harasses Mufti Mohammad Amin Agha and accuses him of “usurping a title” or “pretending authority”. Greek judiciary authorities are persisting on the prison term passed against Mr. Mohammad Amin Agha, the elected Mufti of Exanti. This confirms the fact that Greece does not respect its international obligations that require it to recognize the basic human rights o the Turkish Muslim minority, and the practice of those rights by this minority.

The Turkish Muslim minority was also denied its right to administer the endowments which are currently run by Greek-appointed persons.

Although education is one of the privileges stipulated in the Luzan Agreement, there are not enough schools in the Turkish Muslim areas which forces about 70% of the students to travel to Turkey for their secondary education.

There is also inequality in education between the Muslim minority and the Greeks (6 years for Muslims against 9 years for Greeks). There is also administrative discrimination. This proves the existence of a policy of bias and discrimination against the Muslim minority which suffered the loss of nationality of tens of thousands of its members in Western Thrace.

The aim behind the oppression of the Muslim minority in Greece is to obliterate the Islamic identity the Turkish Muslims and to force them either to leave Greece or to fully integrate them in the Christian Greek community by their dispersion, away from their centres of concentration, the destruction of their economy and Islamic symbols such as their entities, mosques, schools and Waqfs, and finally by weakening them so that they may be easily eradicated.

The Secretary General submits this report to the Twenty-sixth Session of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers for consideration and appropriate action.

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