The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has called for joint action by Muslims and the international community against the rising tide of Islamophobia.
Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the OIC’s Secretary General, made the call during a speech at a conference, “Islam and Muslims in America”, at the American Islamic College in Chicago on Wednesday Sept. 29.
Ihsanoglu said a “surge” of Islamophobia is taking place around the world, which is of major concern to Muslims. “The mounting surge of Islamophobia has shown how … basic misunderstanding and deep-rooted bigotry of minority marginal groups can resurface to pit one part of humanity against the other, thus amplifying cultural fault-lines on a global scale,” he said.
He added that it shows the dire need for forging a new relationship and understanding through respect for cultural diversity.
He explained that in calling for the meeting the OIC sought to initiate a new relationship and interconnection with Muslim organizations established in the United States, to facilitate their full integration into US society and act as a “cultural bridge” between the US and the Muslim world.
“All OIC initiatives are taken in full coordination and consultation with the US authorities,” he said, and added that the OIC is convinced and determined to work hard and continue to maintain its strong belief that diverse cultures should complement and enhance one another.
“Tolerance, stability and prosperity are nurtured only when nations and cultures communicate and respect each other,” he said.
Ihsanoglu said that the primary objective of the meeting was to reach out to the American public with a clear and straightforward message about the role of the OIC as well as the scope of its relations with the United States.
He stressed that the meeting was guided by the principle of due respect for the sovereignty of the host country and in total compliance with relevant laws and regulations.
“The OIC considers the individuals of the American Muslim community to be US citizens first and foremost, and that the Muslim community is an integral part of the people of the US which has contributed to the development and achievements of America in every field and walk of life,” he said.
“The OIC voices the consensual views and attitudes of the Muslim world, defends its causes and coordinates the joint actions of its member states in all domains of activity, be they political, economic, cultural, or otherwise.”
“The OIC reflects the true and real image of Islam, based on tolerance, peace, pluralism and acknowledgement of diversity. It advocates dialogue with other faiths and civilizations and above all seeks to achieve a historic reconciliation between the Muslim world and the West,” he added.
Ihsanoglu said that contrary to popular understanding, the OIC is not a religious organization. “Islam is the common denominator which brings extremely diverse 57 members and observers from Guyana, Suriname in South America, Senegal in Africa, Turkey and Albania in Europe, Kazakhstan in Central Asia, to Indonesia in Asia together under the umbrella of the organization,” he explained.
He said that Islam is an integral part of the history of religion, belongs to the Abrahamic tradition of faith, and “seeks to promote and enhance the best values of humans, embraces the sublime virtues of peace, equality, justice, compassion, human rights”, and respects nature and the environment.
With regard to peace and stability in the Middle East and other places in the Muslim world, Ihsanoglu said that the OIC is a staunch supporter of peace and stability in all conflict areas including the Middle East, Afghanistan and Somalia. “We support the Arab Peace Initiative which calls for a viable Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel,” he said.
Ihsanoglu said the history of Islam and Muslims in the United States goes back to 1797 when President John Adam signed a treaty declaring that “the United States had no character of enmity against the law, religion or tranquility with Muslims”.
He added that in 1790, South Carolina’s legislative body granted special legal status to a community of Muslim Moroccans, twelve years after the Sultan of Morocco became the first foreign Head of State to recognize the independence of the United States of America.
He stressed that American Muslims have a role and duty to lead the way through sound moral conduct and active participation in positive political movements towards the creation of a just, peaceful and righteous society.
“Several indications reveal positive signs of developments and engender hope for a better and more promising future for the American Muslim community, and that this community has been blessed with countless individuals who have been able to rise to respectable positions in society and have in the process succeeded in pulling others along with them.”