OIC chief: European politicians exploit fear of Muslims

European politicians aim to woo their voters and win their support by attacking or »»

European politicians aim to woo their voters and win their support by attacking or offending Muslims across the region, Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) head Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu said on Thursday.

“There are efforts by European politicians to use Islamophobia as a tool to win votes. Assailing and offending Muslims has become the ugliest tool to win the advantage in elections. The more one attacks Muslims and offends them, the more votes are gained, which can be turned into a seat in the Parliament,” İhsanoğlu said. He added that Muslims have become part of the European political agenda.

The OIC chief’s remarks came in an interview with Today’s Zaman during his visit to Australia at the official invitation from Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd.

Attacks on Muslims first began in Belgium and the Netherlands and have now spread to France, he said, adding that hostility against Muslims is becoming a political tool.

According to İhsanoğlu, using Islamophobia for political gain is very disappointing because there is a risk of seeing religious hatred and discrimination as a natural expression of democracy. Therefore, he said, governments and coalitions formed in this way will justify themselves by saying, “We have done this because our citizens provided us with the authority to do so.”

“It is the same as the decision by the French Parliament criminalizing denial of the Armenian genocide. This decision ignores other nations’ religion and beliefs, which is a huge and dangerous threat to stability,” İhsanoğlu noted.

The French bill approved by French Parliament criminalizing denial of the “Armenian genocide” last month has not only outraged Turks, but also drew strong condemnation from both the Turkish government and the opposition.

Australia to cooperate with OIC

This is the first visit paid by the OIC to Australia over the past 40 years with the aim of making this country a representative of the OIC.

The OIC is a Muslim organization binding together 57 Muslim countries. Non-Muslim representation in the organization started with the US during the presidency of George W. Bush, by an initiative from the OIC. Since then it has become a tradition. Australia is continuing the tradition. “As the Australian government constantly wishes to establish a link with the OIC, the Islamic organization proposed allowing for Australian -- one more non-Muslim country -- representation inside the organization,” İhsanoğlu said. Upon request from the OIC, the person who will represent Australia is Ahmet Fahur, a Lebanese-born Australian citizen and a Muslim. From now on, the special representative from Australia in the OIC will serve as a direct contact.

During his meeting with several senior Australian officials, İhsanoğlu discussed Australia’s Middle East policy and noted that Australia and Turkey have parallel policies in the Middle East.

He said that the OIC had consultations with Turkey to discuss taking a common step in Libya before the UN vote last year, adding that the same consultations are being made for Syria. The agenda of the OIC, the world’s largest Islamic group, is currently busy with the ongoing unrest in the Middle East and protests fueled by a thirst for democracy.

The OIC secretary-general had meetings with senior Turkish officials in 2011 to discuss regional developments, particularly the operation against Libya, and to brief the Turkish prime minister on the OIC’s initiative regarding Libya.

Commenting on the escalating violence in Syria, the OIC chief expressed regret over the veto from China and Russia and assessed it as a failure on the part of the UN Security Council to reach an agreement on a draft resolution that called for an immediate cessation of the ongoing violence to solve the crisis in Syria. İhsanoğlu noted that the veto coming from China and Russia tied the hands of an international decision-making mechanism and prevented any move forward. “To solve this problem we need to get together. Our request is to prevent military intervention because, if it were to come to pass, the dispute could easily become international,” İhsanoğlu said.