The International Civil Liberties Alliance is participating in a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) held in Warsaw Poland. I will be placing here the feed from Europe News’ Facebook page. The introduction of the following document has been received and noted by the OSCE chair heading the meeting.
NOTE: The feeds are below the fold
UPDATE: A brief round-up of the news coming from the conference. Christian and humanist groups stand up for human rights and free speech, an EU rep reaffirms commitment for the making of freedom of religion a priority- A rep from the Muslim forum for social cohesion erupts and says if the hate speech against Islam doesn’t stop, it threatens world piece.
1 October 2012
Warsaw October 1st
Working session 10: Freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief.
On behalf of of International Civil Liberties Alliance, I would like to ask the following question: How can the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights appropriately help the Participating
States to make sure that their legislation concerning freedom of religion and belief is in compliance with the commitments of the OSCE and other international standards.
It is in the nature of OSCE and ODIHR to assist, advise, educate and remind Participating States democratic rules and compliance with human rights. OSCE and ODIHR can at present help in the prevention of serious political and societal drifts that have multiplied in our societies over the past few years. The concept of Human Rights, which is the fundamental basis of the observance of freedom of religion and belief, has been constantly distorted and deprived of sense by many international participants, some of them acting from within the OSCE.
Since the Organization of Islamic Cooperation created the Declaration of Human Rights in Islam, commonly known as the Cairo Declaration, we have witnessed a distortion of the concepts of human rights and religious freedom. This declaration has created a new and secondary standard in human rights based on Sharia Law, which is entirely incompatible with OSCE’s human rights standards, inspired as they were by the declaration of 1948.
Sharia law is a system of religious and political regulations destructive of all the principles promoted through the OSCE, i.e. Democracy, Human Rights, Freedom of religion and belief etc…
Sharia Law has been defined by the European Court of Human Rights on February 2003, as “incompatible with democratic principles…”
Therefore, OSCE’s commitments and works done by its various departments are devoid of sense if all the partners, state-members, NGOs or other contributors are not using the same definition of Human Rights. A definition is required that clearly rejects any interpretation originating in the Cairo Declaration.
The ODIHR could therefore greatly help participating States ensure that their legislation concerning freedom of religion and belief is and remains in compliance with their commitments by:
• Inducing state members to demand the abrogation of the Cairo Declaration, or at least to reject it, so as to prevent the duplicity of language that has appeared in the international agreements and within the OSCE.
• Inducing state members to join the Brussels Process launched by the International Civil
Liberties Alliance on July 9, 2012 in the European Parliament. The Brussels Process aims to assist governments and civil society in protecting civil liberties and freedoms, and more
specifically to defend the freedom of belief against attempts to implement Sharia regulations.
• Helping to create bi- or multilateral partnerships among OSCE members in order to optimize the implementation of the Brussels Process, to contribute to its growth and evolution and to the expansion of its field of application.
Response: sad to note that some NGOs are spreading lies. He is repeating: Muslims are sick and tired of being targeted and demonized. This is evil dialogue. He is commending OSCE about its work about Islamophobia. Appealing to OSCE to make its pS aware of anti-Islamic discourse. This is not a threat. This is demonizing of basic holy things (sic!). We want dialogue but we refuse it with these people.
COJEP: reacting to different speakers. Criticism is important to us. Freedom of expression must be protected, BUT we will defend religion against the hatred that has found a voice. There is a new form od racism. We must be intolerant of Islamophobia. There are victims already. Mentions Breivik. He is threatened by Breivik.
Felix Struening of Stresemann Stiftung told the plenary that he considers a statement made in this morning’s session a threat. He said that this has no room in this plenary. He reminded the plenary that speech must be protected and the state has no legal right to restrict it except to open incitement to crime.
Bashy attacking Elisabeth (Sabbaditsch-Wolff): you would lie if you were to say that apostates be killed if they would leave Islam!
Pax Europa condemned a statement from an earlier NGO representative that world peace could be lost if the insults against Islam and Muhammad do not stop. BPE also asked participating States to protect apostates and reminded theses states of their commitments with respect to changing of one’s religion without repercussions.
ICLA’s – Alain Wagner expresses to abolish the uncertain and ambiguous notion of Islamophobia and recommends that ODIHR should delete the use of the words of Islamophobia and hate speech in its documents.
CAIR Canada openly requests the abolishment of secularism as a principle of society, for the reason that ‘Secularism’ constitutes only another belief, that should not be granted special status.
Further, she emphasizes that we should obey and respect all law set up by the State (that would include blasphemy laws), and respect to refrain from what the State considers illegal, in order that we can have harmonic co-existence in the future.
She refers to the past history of various etnic minorities, how prejudices against those have historically existed, and suggests that the percieved problems with Muslims are nothing unusual, and should not be considered a problem in itself.
This is an outrage: an MPAC member is speaking as a diplomat on behalf of the US government. Where are our US friends? This needs to be made public! Allen West, Trent Franks, Louie Gohmert, Michele Bachmann, take over!
Also the Canadian representative states that the Canadian government will emphasize freedom of religion in its foreign policy efforts, and combat a variety of ‘phobias’ regarding religion.
Back in the plenary hall, a different offical US delegate declares himself a practicing Muslim, he states that the US government intervenes to secure “religious pluralism” whereever challenges to this pluralism is found.
Strangely, the representative also states that Muhammed implemented religious pluralism in his own time. That is an open contradiction of canonical Islamic scripture, specifically Ibn Ishaq, Al-Tabari and Sahih Bukhari. It is not clear why he would speak untruthfully to the assembly, but he must have his reasons.
Alex Johnson, member of the official US Delegation, ask Bashy Quirashy:
On developing coalitions, what do you expect from the future?Interestingly, Bashy addresses him as ‘Brother’, both when responding from the panel and later when he goes to greet him in person. He did not use that title to others.
Frank comes back, and asks Bashy if he ever publicly repudiated terrorism and other problems associated with Islam?A veiled woman representing CAIR Canada advertises their side event on Oct 2nd, and discusses the legal lines of what should be punishable. She says that she has no problem with the democratic process as such.As for fostering tolerance, non-Muslims are requesting to show good faith, and not take the general unease about Islam, and asks how can we build confidence and avoid the overwhelming fear of Islam, which lies as a black cloud over such initiatives.
Another questioner notes that Christianity is mocked frequently without riots, and that this is an example of Anglo-Saxian humour, and an example to follow.
Bashy Quarishy attempts to ridicule the two humanist questioners, stating that he is a greater humanist than them, and that there is no such things as an ‘Umma’. He states that the questions posed are of no intellectual value and only serve to increase his anger.Further, according to Bashy, ridiculing Muhammad or burning the Quran does not constitute dialogue, and must not take place. He refuses that there is such thing as a firm Sharia.Finally, Bashy says that Muslims have individual relations to the Quran, and that most Muslims even do not worry about the Muslim Umma and what the Islamists do. Further, a Muslims first and foremost has to look up to Muhammad and what he taught by example.
From the Turkish Community in Munich, a woman teacher on Islamic philosophy:
Who has the superiority to define religion? That’s the important question.As for the Salafist, she states that their Islam is not her Islam, that as an individual, she should have the freedom to interpret Islam, and that there exists no solid interpretation of Sharia. Further, different schools of Islam have historically been fighting each other, and that’s quite acceptable.
She adds that if the riots over cartoons, films and others ridiculing Islam and/or Muhammad was typical Islamic behaviour, we would have a civil war soon.
She rounds up stating that Judaism, Christianity and Islam have a similar problem with the status of women, and asks what will come first, a female Catholic priest or an Imama?
The ECoRL representative distinguishes between religious scripture and the interpretation there of, and that the wants to interpret his religion to not contradict human rights.
A panel representative responds, stating that using human rights as an instrument to attack a whole community and force them to change practices is fundamentally wrong.As an example, he states that circumcision is technically a voluntary religious practice in Islam, and thus not something to hold against Islam – and that no doctor in Turkey would argue that this practice should be outlawed.Asfor Sharia, the representative says that it constitutes a ‘path’, not a codified law (apparently he is not familiar with Reliance of the Traveller and other Sharia manuals), and claims that in the Ottoman Empire, apostates were not executed, yet punished Armenian Christians converted to Catholicism.He adds that singling out one community for demonisation is wrong.
3:24PM (Finnish Time)
The lack of intellectual rigour from the panel is quite confusing, and appears to gloss over a lot of real life problems for real people. There seems to be a certain fuzziness between actual criminal acts and public debate, as is demonstrated by attacks on Islam critics, blasphemy law and the concept of ‘Islamopobia’. It seems a logical absurdity that there can be no contradiction between religion and human rights, another mistake is that Sharia is not codified, and in particular that apostacy from Islam constitutes a capital offence.
That contradicts Article 18 of the Universal Human Rights.Unless you take core elements out of Islam, there will be fundamental issues between Islam and human rights, yet the panel fails to face up to this or deal with it.
3:20 pm (Finnish time)
“I will be very honest to you” – we are confronted with these questions, they are legitimate. People like himself must distinguish between Islam and the practices in the Islamic world – he blames Hindus for having polluted Islam with non-Islamic practices.
Also the Muslim community has diversity, and have nothing in common – neither language, tradition or Islamic practices – thushe refuses the notion that one can blame the Islamic society, its religion or tradition for the problems of forced marriages, the situation of women, circumcision and other Islamic traditions.Also, Bashy states that Muslims do not know their own religion, and we should give them more time to abolish their practices. Further, the day Europeans stop talking of “Immigrants”, a lot of the problems will disappear.Regarding Sharia law, he considers the problem benign. He does understand that Sharia is totalitarian, and rejects that it belongs in Europe.
The COJEP representative notes that a major source of ‘Islamophobia’ is the Salafist movement, their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, and their general conduct.
13 minutes ago
Bashy Quarishy extends the concept of ‘violence’ to include anything that can be percieved as hurtful, including mental and emotional violence, and complains that “institutional hatred of Islam” is spreading.The “War on Terror” is quoted as a major cause of anti-Western sentiment in Islamic countries, and regrets that insulting Islam and Muhammad has become normal in the name of freedom of expression, and calls it “unnecessary provocations”, and that ‘Islamophobia’ is pushing Muslims into the hands of the Islamists / Fundamentalists, and threatens peaceful coexistance.
The first plenary session concluded with the chairman noting the strong support for individual rights and freedom of expression. He picked up the general trend to defend individual rights. We have that on video, it will go online later.
2:02PM (FINNISH TIME)
We now take a short break and go to several smaller, individual events, of which we will also report.
A speaker from “Set My People Free” stresses the need for individual freedom, for without such freedom, we do not have the freedom to love God. Securing the right to change one’s religion is vital, a right that in particular does not exist in Islamic countries. Quoting Jefferson, he calls for more effort to abolish laws against blasphemy, as well as against change or abolishment of faith.
There is a noticeable shift of balance as compared to last year. A series of NGO’s, in particular Christian and secular are standing up for fundamental freedom, while the Islamists seem isolated.
Internation Humanist Federation stresses that freedom of expression remains a fundamental human right, and must not be compromised by blasphemy laws seeking to prevent criticism of various beliefs.They call for a full abolisment of blasphemy laws and preventing adopting any new such laws.