As part of their ongoing campaign to make "Islamophobia" an international crime comparable with genocide, torture or child slavery, the Organisation of Islamic Conference recently set up a committee, the "Observatory", charged with monitoring incidents as they occurred. Their initial report, which I dissected a while ago, took as its brief the broad sweep of history: a history, it turns out, dominated by discrimination against and vilification of Muslims. Beginning with Byzantine objections to having their empire invaded, and continuing during the colonial era, Islamophobia was seen to reach its apogee in the outrageous action of some Danish cartoonists.
"Over the years the growing intolerance and discrimination against Muslims, and insults against Islam have become pervasive and often condoned in certain Western countries and communities," said OIC ambassadors in a statement on 29th February.
The Observatory group have recently released their monthly report for March 2008(pdf). Compiled by Abdula Manafi Mutualo, described as Professional Officer in the Culture and Social Affairs Department, it is a rather curious document, less a report than a random compilation of newspaper clippings and statements culled from Islamic websites. It divides its material broadly into "Negative" and "Positive" occurrences. I assume that the negative incidents are examples of Islamophobia and the positive incidents constitute the opposite of Islamophobia, whatever that may be. But it's a little hard to tell. If that is indeed the case, Mutualo's definition of an "Islamophobic" incident is a strange one. Almost anything written or reported about Islam would seem to fit into one or other of these categories.
Under "negative developments" we find the following:
- the decision of the British government to ban Yusuf al Qaradawi from visiting the country. "The ban from entering Britain comes after a sustained campaign over several years, led by the Zionist lobby," says the report's source, Muslim News, which also quotes an MCB statement blaming the ban on pressure from Tory leader David Cameron.
- an Australian study suggesting that anti-terrorist policies might drive young Muslims into the arms of extremists.
- a statement by Maryam Namazie, of the Council of Ex-Muslims in Britain, that "rights are for individuals, not for religions or beliefs". It's not clear whether the Islamophobia being objected to here is the thoughts of Namazie herself or the sympathetic article about her in the Times.
- more stuff about the Danish cartoons
- the build-up to the release of Geert Wilders' film Fitna, and the immediate reaction to it. The report stresses objections to the film's release by Muslims and non-Muslim politicians, and says little or nothing about the content of the film
That would appear to be the sum-total of Islamophobia in March.
And what of the positive occurrences? Again, a peculiar rag-bag, some of which do indeed seem to be positive developments, others less so.
- Yemen is to "establish a satellite network.. in a bid to defend the honor and sanctity of the Prophet". "Officials of the network will disseminate precious tenets of the enlightening religion of Islam," one of the organisers added.
- Preparations for a meeting later this year between senior Muslim leaders and the Pope.
- The news that there are now more Muslims the Roman Catholics (quite what this fact has to do with Islamophoba is left unexplained. Perhaps the report's author just wants to get a little gloat in).
- "Berlin exhibition closes after Muslim threats". The art show, satirising anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, was withdrawn "after a group of Muslims walked into the gallery and threatened staff with violence". Sounds like a very positive development to me.
- the American Muslim Public Affairs Committee "calls on Al Jazeera to stop spreading Islamophobia" (!). Apparently they were objecting to the broadcast of an interview with Syrian-born psychologist Dr Wafa Sultan, who "routinely insults and debases Muslims and everything they hold sacred." [It's a great interview, by the way. See it on YouTube.]
- "Rudd's quest for true-blue Muslims". The Australian government is apparently looking for positve role-models for Muslim citizens. A minister is quoted as saying that "religious leaders were not representative of the mainstream Muslim community" and that "the idea that all Muslims were religious was a misconception that he wanted debunked." It sounds like an excellent idea to me, but it's surprising to find this report endorsing it.
- Dubai to set up a Muhammad museum, said to be the world's first.
- German schools to teach about Islam
There followed a compilation of other reports about Islam and Muslims that fall less easily into either category, and some newspaper editorials about Islamophobia. Among these was a remarkably interesting leader from the Pakistan Daily Times, which might just be on to something:
All Muslims are agreed that Islamophobia exists in Western societies but they are not prepared to understand it as a “reaction” to the changing sociology of the expatriate Muslims against whom this “phobia” is directed. Because of the full citizenship granted to the expatriate Muslims in the West — as opposed to the Middle East where Muslim foreign workers have no rights — Muslims think they are exempt from the obligation of “integration” with local culture. Influenced by the Western concept of “multiculturalism”, they assume an aggressive identity ready to challenge the foreign policy of the host state. The fear this arouses in the West is not good for the future of the expatriate Muslim community. Islamophobia is reactive and will go down if the expatriate Muslim accepts a level of assimilation not incompatible with moderation.
The report's author reproduces this stunning paragraph without comment, and then moves on to the next item. In fact there's no analysis of any kind in the report. What it does reveal, to a casual observer, is a dramatic mismatch between the OIC's assumption (shared by many western liberals) that Islamophobia is a pervasive phenomenon and the difficulty that even an official Islamophobia monitor has in finding many actual examples. OIC leaders may secretly be hoping that no-one reads their reports.