In June 2018, the first “Islamic-European Forum for examining ways of cooperation to curb hate speech in the media,” initiated by the OIC, ironically but sadly took place at the Press Club Brussels Europe.
The director of the information department of the OIC, Maha Mustafa Aqeel, explained that the forum is part of the OIC’s media strategy to counter “Islamophobia”:
“Our strategy focuses on interacting with the media, academics, and experts on various relevant topics, in addition to engaging with Western governments to raise awareness, support the efforts of Muslim civil society bodies in the West, and engage the latter in developing plans and programs to counter Islamophobia.”
Unlike almost all other intergovernmental organizations, the OIC wields both religious and political power. It describes itself as:
“…the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations with a membership of 57 states spread over four continents. The Organization is the collective voice of the Muslim world… espousing all causes close to the hearts of over 1.5 billion Muslims of the world.”
According to the OIC’s Charter, one of the objectives of the organization is “To disseminate, promote and preserve the Islamic teachings and values based on moderation and tolerance, promote Islamic culture and safeguard Islamic heritage,” as well as “To protect and defend the true image of Islam, to combat defamation of Islam and encourage dialogue among civilisations and religions.”
At the 11th Session of The Islamic Summit Conference (Session of The Muslim Ummah in The 21St Century) in Dakar, Senegal (13-14 March 2008), the member states of the OIC decided to “renew our pledge to work harder to make sure that Islam’s true image is better projected the world over…” and to “seek to combat an Islamophobia with designs to distort our religion”.
In 2008, the OIC published its 1st OIC Observatory Report on Islamophobia. This document listed a number of interactions that OIC representatives had with Western audiences — including the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and academics and others at universities such as Georgetown and Oxford — and stated:
“The point that was underscored in all these interactions was that Islamophobia was gradually gaining inroads into the mind-set of the common people in Western societies, a fact that has created a negative and distorted perception of Islam. It was emphasized that Muslims and Western societies would have to address the issue with a sense of commitment to ending Islamophobia… Islamophobia poses a threat not only to Muslims but to the world at large.”
Since that 1st OIC Observatory Report on Islamophobia, the OIC opened its Permanent Observer Mission to the EU (in 2013) and also cooperates with the OSCE and the Council of Europe “to combat stereotypes and misunderstandings and foster tolerance.” In December 2017, the OIC and the EU agreed on strengthening bilateral cooperation, when they held their second Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) at the OIC headquarters, during which both sides agreed on “strengthening bilateral cooperation through concrete actions”.
The OIC was concrete in its demands to the West. In a statement delivered at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the OIC Secretary General called for Europe to “Prosecute and punish for racial discrimination… through the framework of appropriate legislation” and also to “Strengthen existing legislation on discrimination and discriminatory and ‘unequal treatment’ adopted by EU council directives”.
Today, many Western European governments are prosecuting their own citizens for criticizing Islam or Muslims in, for example, Sweden, Germany and the UK, although it is unclear, whether or how much of this development can be directly attributed to the OIC.
In Sweden, for instance, pensioners especially have been prosecuted for making critical comments about Islam on Facebook. A 71-year-old woman referred to so-called unaccompanied minors as “bearded children” and said — not inaccurately (here and here and here) — that some seem to be “engaged in rape and demolishing their [asylum] homes”. In February 2018, a Swedish court sentenced her to a fine for “incitement of hatred against an ethnic group”.
In Germany, a journalist, Michael Stürzenberger, was handed a six-month suspended jail sentence for posting on his Facebook page a historical photo of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, shaking the hand of a senior Nazi official in Berlin in 1941. The prosecution accused Stürzenberger of “inciting hatred towards Islam” and “denigrating Islam” by publishing the photograph.
In addition to cultivating high-level contacts with Western actors, the OIC also is pursuing a comprehensive media strategy, agreed upon in Saudi Arabia in December 2016 and focused on the West.
This OIC media strategy claims as one of its goals:
“To increase the interaction with media outlets and professionals, while encouraging accurate and factual/portrayal of Islam. Emphasis should be directed at avoidance of any link or association of Islam with terrorism or the use of Islamophobic rhetoric in the war on terror, such as labeling criminal terrorists as ‘Islamic’ fascists, ‘Islamic’ extremists.”
Part of that strategy has already had much success across the Western world, where authorities and media do not want to label Muslim terrorists as Islamic, but routinely describe them as “mentally ill.”
The OIC also notes that it would like media professionals and journalists “to develop, articulate and implement voluntary codes of conduct to counter Islamophobia”, while at the same time engaging Western governments “in creating awareness against the dangers of Islamophobia by addressing the responsibility of media on the issue”. The OIC additionally states that it would like to train foreign journalists to “deal with the phenomenon of hatred and defamation of the Islamic religion” as exemplified by the recent European-Islamic Forum, where attendees were introduced to the OIC’s “Program for Training Media Professionals on Redressing Stereotypes about Islam”.
As maintained earlier here, European journalists — helped along by the EU — are already very adept at censoring themselves, which means that the OIC’s work is probably already more than half-done when it comes to Europe.
Finally, the OIC media strategy calls for fostering a “network of high profile western public figures supporting efforts to combat Islamophobia in politics, journalism and civil society” as well as teams of scholars academics, and celebrities, who will be the faces of the campaign.
The IOC mentions the following, among others, as examples of mass media campaigns it aims to launch as part of its media strategy:
- Television and advertising campaigns “targeting public transport (bus and metro) famous newspapers and magazines for each country two times in one year”.
- Arranging three talk shows per year in key TV channels in US and Europe about Islam with the participation of selected members from Muslim countries.
- 10 lectures per year in each country (universities, unions and suggested important centers) “about Islamic role in building cultures and connect between religions”.
- Visits to schools and universities by OIC “specialist teams”.
- Hosting 100 “Western activists” from various fields in selected Muslim countries where they “can interact with intellectuals, politicians, media figures, and religious scholars”.
- Produce one-hour documentary “examining the growth of Islamophobia in the West and its impact on Muslims around the world and interfaith relations” for broadcasting “on mainstream networks such as Britain’s BBC and Channel 4 or America’s PBS”.
The OIC is being assisted in all these efforts by “prestigious public relations companies such as UNITAS Communications which is based in London, UK and Golden Cap based in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”.
The OIC promises that it will also create a fund to support local anti-Islamophobia initiatives, and monitor media and place commentary and news stories in key Western publications.
It is important to note that in the years 1998-2011, the OIC sought to advance an agenda in the UN, banning “the defamation of religions”, but the OIC gave up on the ban after realizing that there was not sufficient support there for the proposal. “We could not convince them,” said Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the Turkish head of the IOC at the time. “The European countries don’t vote with us, the United States doesn’t vote with us.”
Instead of pursuing the ban on defamation of religions, the OIC shifted its focus to UN Resolution 16/18  which calls upon states to take concrete steps to prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion, “foster religious freedom and pluralism,” and “counter religious profiling which is understood to be the invidious use of religion as a criterion in conducting questionings, searches and other law enforcement investigative procedures.”
Andrew C. McCarthy, a critic of Resolution 16/18, maintains that:
“Sharia forbids any speech — whether true or not — that casts Islam in an unfavorable light, dissents from settled Muslim doctrine, has the potential to sow discord within the ummah, or entices Muslims to renounce Islam or convert to other faiths. The idea is not merely to ban gratuitous ridicule — which, by the way, sensible people realize government should not do (and, under our Constitution, may not do) even if they themselves are repulsed by gratuitous ridicule. The objective is to ban all critical examination of Islam, period…” [Emphasis in original]
The OICs highly ambitious plans to do away with freedom of speech go severely underreported in the West. Mainstream Western journalists do not appear to find it dangerous that their freedom of speech should be supervised by the OIC, while Western governments, far from offering any resistance, appear, perhaps for votes, to be cozily going along with everything.
 See also “Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s ‘Islamophobia’ Campaign against Freedom“ and “The OIC vs. Freedom of Expression“
 See also “The OIC/NGOs cooperation in combating Islamophobia“ from the International Conference on Islamophobia, Istanbul 2007.
 OIC Charter Article 1(11)
 Ibid., Article 1 (12)
 11th Session of the Islamic Summit Conference, Dakar Declaration, p 4
Ibid., p 4
 1st OIC observatory report on Islamophobia (May 2007 to May 2008) p 24 (section 4.5.)
 1st OIC observatory report on Islamophobia (May 2007 to May 2008) p 30. (sections 4.5.7 and 4.5.8)
 Ibid., p 30 (Section 4.5.8)
 OIC Media Strategy in Countering Islamophobia and Its Implementation Mechanisms, p 2, (section I (2))
 Ibid., p 4, Section III (1)
 Ibid., p 4, Section III (3)
 Ibid., p 5, Section III (7)
 Ibid., pp 3-4, Section II(2) and (7)
 Ibid., pp 8-9, Section 7
 Ibid., p 6
 Resolution 16/18 on Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against, persons based on religion or belief. The resolution was passed in the UN Human Rights Council in 2011 with support from both OIC member countries and Western countries, including the United States.