Thursday, April 3, 2008

A review of the Organisation of Islamic Countries report on Islamophobia

"Islamophobia exists but the OIC report is the wrong way of going about it. A phobia is a strong irrational or powerful fear and dislikes of something, in this case, the religion of Islam.


Looking at the document, I would conclude that this was done by some under-graduates from a 3rd grade university hidden in a country-side somewhere, who have no idea about modern life and have suddenly stumbled upon the internet with their first lesson being Google search. As a result, this document starts off with the best of intentions and ends up rather fanning Islamophobia instead of helping to reduce it. It suffers from the following major defects:

* Total misunderstanding of the basic principle of Freedom of Speech. Freedom of speech includes the freedom to irritate and upset others. Freedom of speech does not include the right to discriminate against others though. For example, I can take the mickey out of suicide bombers wanting virgins and ending up with raisins. Or you can call me an infidel and say your religion is better than mine. These are completely acceptable, I have no issues. But you cannot tell others to kill me nor can I tell others to kill you. That is incitement to violence. The author seems to have deep intellectual issues in understanding this basic matter.
* Confusing racism with Islamophobia. Race belongs to a genetic category generally exhibited on the basis of a physical appearance. Islamophobia is a fear of Islam. Two totally different things. While in certain cases (such as black Muslims), they might blow over into being the same, but to confuse both of them as one shows muddled thinking. Muslims are not a race, and they do include a variety of different races and ethnic groups.
* Methodological and terminological confusion, which emerges from seriously flawed selection of incidents and coverage of incidents. Almost 50% of the incidents noted in the Appendix are not Islamophobic in nature, but belong to the category of freedom of speech or simple crime category. Islamophobia exists already without trying to add to it.
* A totally wrong emphasis on legal protections. They try to go deep into legal aspects of various conventions and institutions. But you see, those are already established, anti-discrimination laws exist, anti-violence laws exist anti-incitement laws exist and they are sufficient. For example, they are talking about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and completely forget that they themselves have repudiated it and have come up with a Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights. Here’s an idea! How about the OIC signing up to and transcribing to domestic law, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as most of the rest of the world has done?
* Be very careful about complaining about being a victim, because it only stands up when you yourself have not victimised someone else. Now if you look at the OIC minorities, one can come up with many examples of victimisation that they themselves have done. And we are talking about Muslims victimising Muslims here, forget about non-Muslims. Ranging from Shia, Sunni, Ahmadi, Baha’i, Ismaili, Darfurians and then all the way to the other side like Jews, Christians, Hindus Buddhists, etc. have been victimised in OIC countries. Now, consider the reaction if such a report on anti-Baha'i or anti-Shia or anti-Semitic discrimination is presented at the OIC? How about considering the fact that many if not most current anti-Semitic attacks in Europe are carried out by European Muslims?
* A totally imbalanced view of history. This entire report was so imbalanced in terms of its historical coverage that one does not even know where to start. What about the entry of Islam into the Caucasian world? Or the Chinese area? How about how it managed the entry and existence in South Asia and Africa? Islam has perhaps victimised more in many countries and regions than had been victimised against. Perhaps this is why their geographical scope of the report is so muddled (to avoid any facts which destroy their argument?)
* Significant challenges in the identification of the causes of Islamophobia. First of all, there is not one form of Islam; it is not a single view, sect or a monolith. More importantly it is not the role of the state to define it. So if you are an Ahmadi or a Shia or a Sunni or what have you, we simply do not care! If you have religious differences, then by all means, discuss them, but do not kill for those differences. For example, the list of seven points raised by the Runnymede Trust defining Islamophobia can, unfortunately be equally applied to anti-Semitism, Anti-Hinduism, Anti-Shia… in OIC countries, where they will be totally applicable. Consequently, ALL root causes of Islamophobia as identified in section 1.4.1 are completely wrong and misallocated.
* A clear misunderstanding of the role of the media and the level of control people can actually exert over them. Most - if not all - of the OIC have no or very little press freedom. On top of that, the Arab League, a subset of the OIC, has decided to take fuller control over their TV Media since February 2008. That is not how the media works in other countries. Do check out independent organisations such as Reporters without Borders.
* Israel – Palestine conflict. This is something that I can never understand. Curiously, more than 3/4th of all dead Palestinians have been killed by their fellow Arabs compared to the numbers killed by Israelis, but besides that breathtaking hypocrisy, I still cannot understand why they would include it in here. Or exclude say something like Bangladesh and Sudan? Pretty bizarre and intellectually vacuous."

Bhaskar Dasgupta, The Cheers, 3. April 2008
The report(PDF).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Perceptive analysis! A similar assessmnet of analytical skills of the gentlemen that have just been convicted in the Uk runs in similar vein. They might not have realised but not everyone in the UK is into Home and Away, Eastenders and getting blind drunk. They were clearly hanging out with the wrong crowd and were using a biased sample...tut tut...could have benefited from a western higher education perhaps?