Address by Mr. Habib El Malki, Speaker of the House of Representatives, at the information briefing for the Ambassadors of Islamic countries (Adoption of an International Day Against Islamophobia).> 18/09/2019
Mr. Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to meet with you here, in the House of Representatives of the Kingdom of Morocco, a venue with great historical significance and political symbolism. My pleasure is all the greater as we meet, dear brothers and sisters, to discuss an issue whose loftiness and whose spiritual, cultural and political implications serve to unite Muslims, whether it is peoples, States, political organizations or institutions of joint Islamic action.
May I point out, first of all, that as President of the Parliamentary Union of OIC Member States, I was behind this initiative by Islamic parliaments designed to declare an "International Day against Islamophobia and for Tolerance and Intercultural Dialogue". This proposal was unanimously adopted by my colleagues members of the PUIC Executive Committee, who thus gave it an institutional character.
This initiative is part of efforts to defend our countries and our peoples, as well as Muslim communities and minorities in non-Islamic countries. Along with other crucial issues, the initiative was at the heart of the discussions held at the 14th PUIC Conference and its parallel sessions, which took place in the Moroccan Parliament in mid-March 2019, and which I was honored to chair.
Pursuant to the resolutions adopted by the PUIC General Conference, the Executive Committee, meeting in an extraordinary session held in this very hall on 17 July 2019, adopted this international initiative, among other important decisions. We propose that this initiative be activated at the level of the United Nations Organization and its specialized agencies, in particular UNESCO and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, whose High Representative is our friend and former Minister, Ambassador Miguel Ángel Moratinos. I want to say , in this regard, that we appreciate his position regarding the justness of Muslim causes, as well as his efforts to bring civilizations and cultures closer one another.
This is a matter of implementing a resolution adopted by 69 legislative institutions in the UPIC 54 Member States. Accordingly, the initiative has specific representative and institutional legitimacy, which, in turn, implies a number of obligations and responsibilities for us.
The proposed initiative consists in working from within the United Nations Organization and its specialized agencies, in particular UNESCO, towards the adoption of an International Day against Islamophobia and for the promotion of tolerance and intercultural dialogue. This should be an opportunity for the international community to call for tolerance and coexistence, to shed light on the moderation of Islam, and to reject the disparaging discourse on Islam and Muslims, which has turned Islamophobia and fear of others into an ideology.
Mr. Director General,
I believe there is no need for me to recall the reasons behind the rise of Islamophobia today. While the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks were used to stir up public opinion against Islam, Islamophobia is fueled today by other events, by migration flows resulting from conflicts and wars, particularly in the Middle East, as well as by climate change, terrorist acts committed by extremists, and the discourse of fanatics and terrorist groups. In fact, Muslims are the main victims of these groups’ inexcusable acts. In non-Muslim countries, Islamophobia now involves hatred for practically everything related to Islam and Islamic civilization. It leads to incitement against Muslims, to discrimination against them in all walks of life, and to violent, terrorist acts perpetrated by far-right fanatics against Muslims, as was the case, last March, in a mosque in New Zealand.
With the proliferation of acts of Islamophobia, the phenomenon is now used to fuel political discourse and serve electoral outbidding tactics. Islamophobia in non-Muslim countries has become a means to win elections. It also explains the rise of radical right-wing discourse, introversion and the rejection of the other. The current situation reinforces this trend, making Islamophobia tantamount to a political ideology in certain quarters.
The OIC annual reports on Islamophobia, especially the 10th report covering the period from October 2016 to May 2017, reviews the evolution of populist movements and Islamophobic acts in non-Muslim countries.
Although Islamophobia has become virtually a "phenomenon", it is comforting to note that it is not unchallenged, both in the West and in the East. Indeed, a large number of thinkers, people of conscience, political leaders, political and civic organizations, official and public institutions, public authorities, including courts, and political decision-makers are standing up against intolerance and xenophobic movements against Muslims. Their discourse and their stances, which are rational and mature, are based on tolerance and openness.
It is this common good of humanity which is rooted in mutual respect and a desire to reduce tensions and enhance mutual understanding that must be preserved and strengthened in order to avoid instability and to dispel confusion in the media and inside the political debate on Islam and Muslims. As His Majesty King Mohammed VI pointed out in March 2002, in Marrakech, at the opening of the 107th Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, what is happening in the world today is a clash of ignorance, not a clash of civilizations.
Mr. Director General,
Needless to say that this initiative, which Islamic countries’ parliaments have fully endorsed through our Union, would, if approved, provide an opportunity to renew our joint mobilization. This is essential in order to approach our friends and allies in parliamentary forums and elsewhere, as well as all forces and people who are committed to the values of justice, openness, tolerance, peace and intercultural dialogue, the aim being to deconstruct and defeat hate speech.
A task of this nature requires collective resourcefulness and hard work. It also requires that we mobilize opinion leaders and parliamentary assemblies in order to foster the common good of humanity, to ensure respect for each other's cultural specificities, to combat confusion - deliberate or otherwise - between Islam and terrorism, which cannot be ascribed to any religion; between terrorism and immigration and asylum-seeking; between terrorism and identity. The exceptional richness, vitality and rationalism of our Islamic culture, and its countless contributions to human knowledge, science, creativity and the arts, clearly show that we have always contributed, as a community, to the various aspects of life, to interculturality, to the cycle of history and to human interactions. Our contributions have, indeed, helped shape humanity's journey towards the achievements that exist today. No one can deny the decisive contribution Islamic civilization and Muslim creativity have made to the achievements of mankind. Who can reasonably dispute the crucial contributions to universal civilization made by Muslim physicians, scholars and philosophers such as Ibn Rushd, Ibn Sina, Ibn Maimon, Ibn Khaldoun, Al-Khwarizmi, Al-Farabi, Al-Razi, al-Idrissi and Al-Khayyam?
This is one of the initiatives that are at the center of the battle to correct misrepresentations about Islam and Muslims, including our religion, our civilization and our history. This is a strategic challenge, not just for Muslim countries, but also for the entire international community. Indeed, we are called upon to reverse the trends based on hatred, hostility and confrontation, and to promote a spirit of tolerance, cooperation, coexistence and respect for the religions, cultures and values of others. We should not confront extremism and violence - be it physical or moral - through extremist means. Building a common future and establishing peace to achieve shared prosperity and bring about a world in which injustice and the logic of force would fade, require longstanding action, perseverance and an unwavering determination not to succumb to provocations.
Our Muslim communities in the West, just like our enlightened thinkers, have held the moral high ground by resisting provocation in the face of attacks waged against them, and also whenever there was an incident for which the blame was laid on Muslims.
Mr. Director General,
I wish to point out that this initiative is part of a number of measures taken during my chairmanship of the Union, including the creation of the 'Al-Quds Prize for Democracy and Historical Justice'. This Prize attests to the special importance of the Palestinian cause for Muslim peoples. It also reflects a desire to arouse, once again, international interest in the Palestinian cause, in a regional and international context where this issue is no longer in the limelight. This has enabled the occupying power to crack down on the Palestinian people with impunity. The creation of this Prize is also meant to remind the international community, in particular parliamentary assemblies, of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, and to highlight the justness of the Palestinian cause as well as the legitimacy of the struggle the Palestinians are waging as a people under occupation.
This is an opportunity for us to reiterate our solidarity with the unarmed Palestinian people, and to strongly condemn the policy of the Israeli occupation authorities, as well as the recent statements by the Prime Minister of the Israeli occupation government on annexing the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea.
I am counting on your diligence and professional competence to inform your countries’ government of this initiative in order to make it operational as quickly as possible at the level of the United Nations and its specialized agencies, in particular UNESCO, ahead of the next session of the United Nations General Assembly, which will convene next week. In this regard, I would like to commend the positive, prompt and proactive reaction by ISESCO and its Director General, Dr. Salem bin Mohammed Al-Malik, who supported this proposal, as did the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO).
The loftiness of this challenge requires exceptional mobilization on our part. It commands that we address the universal conscience of mankind through politicians, intellectuals and public opinion makers in order to achieve our objective.
I thank you for your positive and prompt response and wish to assure you of my determination to continue working with you to serve issues relating to Islam, Muslims, peace, stability and development in the world.