24 MARCH 2000

Bismillahi Arrahmani Arrahimi

Assalamu Alaykum Warahmatu Allah Wabarakatuh,

It gives me great pleasure to attend today the 56th Session of the Commission on Human Rights and take the floor in my own name and on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference on an issue which has forever occupied the mind of Man, ever since Allah created the earth and life on earth, that is to say: the basic human rights and other multiple related issues.

On this occasion, I would like, Mr. Chairman, to express to you and to the other members of the Bureau my sincere congratulations for your election. I am convinced that with your experience and your wisdom the proceedings of this session will be well conducted and crowned with real success. I also would like to express my congratulations to your predecessor, Ambassador Anne Anderson, Chairman of the 55th Session for the remarkable work she has undertaken during her mandate and I also praise the tireless efforts made by Mrs. Mary Robinson, High Commissioner of the United Nations for Human Rights, for the promotion of human rights throughout the whole world.

In fact I was pleased on April 7, 1999 to address the previous, 55th Session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights as I am pleased today to address the current session.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as you well know, cooperation has been strengthened during the past few years between the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the United Nations through full coordination between the General Secretariat of the Organization and the General Secretariat of the United Nations on several fronts and especially in the field of human rights. My presence among you today testifies to that continuous coordination which one of the results has been the joint organization, of a symposium at the end of 1998 entitled “Enriching the Universality of Human Rights: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights from an Islamic Perspective”.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

If the concept of human rights in the West has become an integral part of its culture, still it exists an unhealthy perception of Islam.

What lies behind that fallacious impression is the conflict that lasted for the past centuries between Islam and the West, and its aftermath, ranging from the Crusades to European colonization of greater part of the Islamic world in the nineteenth century. In addition, most orientalists who had the opportunity to study Islam, as a religion and a civilization, did not have the scientific impartiality that usually characterizes scientists and authentic researchers. Thus, they conveyed to their societies a distorted image of the values of that religion and its well-established civilization, branding its peoples as primitive, backward, and barbaric. This image of Islam and Muslims promoted by the advocates of hegemony and domination of the Islamic world in the West during the past century has remained totally or almost totally unchanged. What persuades us of the importance of holding such meetings as the present one under the umbrella of the United Nations is that the issue of human rights is debated so that everyone is able to air their views and opinions and clarify their positions on the issues that are as significant to them as they are to the international community. It has become clear that despite the efforts made during the last few years by the governments of some Islamic and other countries in explaining the position of Islam on various issues, the vast majority of non-Muslims are still unaware of the truth of Islam and its noble human principles.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The researcher into human rights in Islam can only perceive their significance if he is able to grasp the characteristics with which Islam has set Man apart from other creatures, and the dignity it bestowed on Man, as an absolute value. The researcher into human rights in Islam can only perceive their significance if he is able to grasp the “responsibility” Allah has placed on Man by entrusting to him a mission that was rejected by the heavens and the mountains. Foremost among the rights of that “responsibility” is the freedom to act and choose, including the freedom of belief, for Almighty Allah has said: “Let there be no compulsion in Islam: Truth stands out clear from error.” He also said: “If it had been thy Lord’s will, they would all have believed, all who are on earth! Wilt thou then compel mankind, against their will, to believe?” and He said: “Say, “The Truth is from your Lord”: Let him who will, believe, and let him who will, reject (it)”.

As for the notion of equality between all human beings within the framework of Islamic values, it applies to all regardless of their race, color, creed, or social or economic status, for the superiority of some people to others is only possible in the degree of faith they may have. This is what makes Islam, categorically rejects all beliefs and ideologies that glorify race and call for fanaticism, the most advanced system known to mankind throughout its long history.

Dealing with equality in Islam recalls the subject of corollary of the “responsibility” placed by Allah on the shoulders of Man, and that is “sanctity”. In this regard, what is to be noted is the value place by the Islamic Shari’a on the sanctity of the human being, from inception as a sperm-drop until death, the sanctity of the body when buried below earth, the sanctity of honor, property, and homes … these are fundamental pillars that underpin Islamic society and form the springboard for the network of relations among its individuals — which relations must be based on justice and interdependence in the full meaning of these two terms.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The truth is that Islam was always the first to adopt the principles of human rights in the most evident manner and on the largest scale. The Islamic Ummah, at the time of the Great Prophet (peace be upon him) and his wise as well guided Caliphs, was foremost in holding to such rights and applying them. No wonder since Islam was the only revealed religion which bestowed to the whole humanity teachings so as to ensure to mankind a decent, dignified and stable life as well as rights suitable to everyone’s needs. It also detailed the consecrated rights for every human being without any ambiguity and in a way that does not leave room neither for doubt nor for any controversial arguments.

The Islamic Ummah rendered glorious services to human civilisation for long ages, before drifting away from its pioneering position in this context. Then came other communities which made the most out of the Islamic heritage as the need arose and on the basis of their economic and technical strength, so those communities reached a position of leadership and influence. Thus, today, we see that the principles which we invited people to hold on to and abide by are coming back to us if they were a human discovery we never knew of or experienced in the past.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Human rights in Islam emanate from the essence of Islam itself, from the divine revelation which can be stained with no wrong whatsoever. The Islamic Shari’a honored the human being regardless of the person’s gender, religion or color. “We have honored the offspring of Adam”.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Nowadays, we must admit and perforce recall that the world around us today is replete with cases of shameful violations of human rights:

Our brethren, the Palestinian people are still experiencing the tragedy of a continuous, and violent Israeli occupation involving the loss of numerous lives, the confiscation of property, the restraining of freedoms, the aggression being committed against the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and the building of more settlements, which all constitute blatant violations of the 4th Geneva Convention of 1949 on the protection of civilians in times of war. It is for this reason that the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) constantly declares its insistence on the necessity to apply the said convention on the Palestinian people steadfastly resisting occupation in the occupied West Bank and Al-Quds.

Likewise, the Kashmiri people who are fighting for the exercise of their legitimate right to self-determination in compliance with the decisions of the United Nations are still undergoing blatant violations of their basic human rights.

The Iraqi people are also suffering from the sanctions imposed on them which affect the living conditions of men, women and children.

The killing, destruction and terror to which the Muslim people of Chechnya are subjected in broad daylight, while the world turns a deaf ear and a blind eye, constitute a flagrant violation of individual human rights. I seize this opportunity to reiterate the call for an end to this wantonly Russian aggression upon such a small people, in a fashion that does not distinguish between men, women and children. I also urge for the withdrawal of the Russian forces to their initial positions, the safe return of all those who were displaced from their homes and hearth, and a peaceful settlement of the Chechen issue based on justice and equity, rehabilitation and the respect of cultural and social specificity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Now I am going to conclude. At the threshold of the 21st Century it is imperative to put an end to all these blatant violations of human rights so that all people of the world may enjoy the same rights to education, health, development and welfare in a decent moral environment by eradicating poverty, misery, hunger, illiteracy etc.

We can achieve these objectives, especially through a decisive and voluntary international cooperation deriving from an understanding and mutual respect of the cultural idiosyncracies of each people.

In this perspective, the Organization of the Islamic Conference is convinced that the dialogue of civilizations which it had called upon vehemently and which the United Nations has announced for the year 2001 will reinforce the basis of such a cooperation. I am pleased to announce to you that the Organization of the Islamic Conference is actively working in this regard.

Thank you for your kind attention.