The Istanbul Process and the OIC's Continuing Efforts to Implement Restrictions to Prevent the "Defamation of Islam": Part II

Location: Room HVC200, Capitol Visitor Center,
1st Street, Washington D.C

Time: Monday, December 3rd, 2012
12 p.m.-2p.m.

Lunch to be Served,
Dietary Laws Observed


Clare Lopez,
Senior Fellow, Center for Security Policy

Sam Nunberg,
Director, The Legal Project

Deborah Weiss,
Co-author of, "Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamic Terrorist Network”

Moderated by:
Adam Turner, Staff Counsel, Endowment for Middle East Truth

On Monday, December 3, EMET will hold a panel discussion about “The Istanbul Process and the OIC’s Continuing Efforts to Implement Restrictions to Prevent the Defamation of Islam: Part II” on Capitol Hill. This is the second EMET panel to focus on the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) continued push for UN resolutions calling on countries to criminalize what it terms “defamation of religion.”

The OIC is an association of 56 Islamic states and the Palestinian Authority, none of whom are functioning democracies or defenders of human rights. The OIC is the largest voting bloc in the United Nations, which has enabled its members to dominate UN policy and discussions. This is part of the reason why Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is supremely confident that a large portion of the UN General Assembly will back the PA's Statehood bid.

One of the OIC’s primary goals is the restriction of freedom of expression at the international level to punish anything deemed critical of or offensive to Islam or radical Muslim leaders. EMET held its first panel on this topic on February 7, 2012.

After being frustrated in earlier attempts to pass “defamation of religion” resolutions at the UN, the OIC changed gears and pushed through Resolution 16/18 in March 2010. Resolution 16/18 calls for the criminalization of “incitement to imminent violence based on religion or belief,” and it “condemns…any advocacy of religious hatred against individuals that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.” 16/18 also “urges States to take effective measures as set forth in the present resolution, consistent with their obligations under international human rights law, to address and combat such incidents.”

On July 15, 2011 a summit meeting between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu in Istanbul launched what became known “Istanbul Process”. At that meeting, Mrs. Clinton committed the United States to a partnership with the OIC for the purpose of implementing the legislative results required by 16/18.

From Dec. 12-14 of 2011, Ms. Clinton hosted in Washington a second meeting “to discuss” with the OIC “how to implement resolution no. 16/18 on combating defamation of religions…” and that the aim of this and further meetings was “developing a legal basis” for domestic and international laws “preventing inciting hatred resulting from the continued defamation of religions.”

On November 19, 2012, the OIC hosted a clearly-related symposium on “Defamation Acts against Islam: conflict dimensions and perspectives of co-existence between Islam and the West”. The session was attended by OIC Secretary General Ihsanoglu, Russian Consul General Sergey Kuznetsov, and others. The State Department originally announced that Anne Casper, US Consul General in Jeddah, would be attending, but when the press took notice of it, that announcement was scrubbed from their website. Presumably, Ms. Casper still attended.

The Istanbul Process is all part of the Obama Administration’s unfortunate willingness to restrict the free speech rights of Americans to placate Muslim radicals who demand that their actions and religion be free from any and all criticism. Other evidence of this tendency by the Administration includes efforts to blame an obscure YouTube video for the terrorist attack in Benghazi, and President Obama’s speech at the UN that “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”

There are a number of specific reasons, beyond a commitment to free speech, to be very worried about the OIC's efforts. First, the continued dominance of U.N. human rights discussions by the OIC's "defamation of religion" rants distracts attention and resources away from actual human rights violations in the world. For example, it distracts from genocides throughout the world (such as are occuring in Syria and Sudan), the arrest of journalists, the persecution of religious minorities, "honor" killings, acid attacks against women, to name only a few. Second, a report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom noted that the OIC's effort is based on domestic laws OIC members states already exploit to "intimidate and … detain" religious minorities. For example, there is the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian in Pakistan who remains locked in prison for supposedly blaspheming against Islam. So, in addition to the obvious strictures that they place on speech, laws restricting "defamation of religion" are incompatible with other fundamental human rights including freedom of religion.

We encourage you to join us for this important panel discussion.

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