Muslim states agree to media blitz in fight against Islamophobia
Organization of Islamic Cooperation head Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at his office in March 2011. (Photo: AA)
The largest platform representing Muslim countries has agreed to launch an aggressive media campaign with the purpose of raising awareness of anti-Muslim hate movements in the world, while keeping tabs on the problems that are being faced by Muslim citizens in Western and Asian countries.
In the final communiqué, adopted at the 9th session of the Islamic Conference of Information Ministers in Libreville, Gabon, the representatives from 57 member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which is the largest intergovernmental organization after the UN, has empowered the Turkish secretary-general of the organization with a new tool to go after Islamophobic movements in the world.
The meeting saw strong messages voiced by member countries at the OIC meeting in Gabon. As representative of the hosting country and chairman of the conference, Blaise Louembe, the Gabonese minister of digital economy, communications and post, told the audience that there is a need to support the initiative of dialogue, solidarity and consultation among the OIC member countries, stressing that addressing Islamophobia through diplomatic dynamism is important. He proposed the launch of an awareness-raising campaign to eliminate violence advocated by some extremist movements. Louembe said Gabon is ready to lead the charge on these projects.
Morocco's Minister of Communication Mustapha Khalfi warned that Islamophobia is rising and campaigns targeting the image of Islam and Muslims in international media are increasing. He underlined that media institutions in the Muslim world have more responsibility to confront these smear campaigns against Islam. Khalfi also noted that OIC should be a conduit in coordinating media action among Muslim countries as well as within the UN.
The OIC Secretary General, Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, also highlighted Islamophobia as one of the most pressing issues that needs to be tackled by the OIC. He said that Islamophobia is fuelled by a misconception about Islam and Muslims and incites hatred and discrimination against them on religious and ethnic grounds.”
Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba stated that the present session is of utmost importance as it focuses on sensitive media issues. Ondimba also joined other in the conference in drawing attention to the looming dangers of Islamophobia and the growing hatred towards Muslims in the Western media. He called for a comprehensive strategy to combat terrorism, extremism and radicalism, stating that Islam and Muslims are the first victims of extremist ideology.
The OIC meeting in Gabon has adopted a number of resolutions to strengthen media coordination among the 57 member countries. According to one resolution, the OIC has adopted a comprehensive media plan directed at audiences outside of the OIC member states. Gabon will be in charge of implementing this action plan. Saudi Arabia allocated $25 million to a special fund created to promote the positive image of Islam among non-OIC media. Other member states are also expected to contribute to this fund. The program targets media in key world capitals.
The OIC has also agreed to overhaul the media arm of the organization, which includes the International Islamic News Agency (IINA) and the Islamic Broadcasting Union (IBU), because of their lackluster performance.
A resolution paving the way for coordinated efforts in news
The Gabon meeting also focused on how to coordinate news information among media organs in OIC member states, by approving a resolution that will pave the way for joint Islamic action among Muslim countries.
Officials at the Gabon meeting also approved a resolution that will help coordinate news information among media organizations in the OIC member states. The resolution will help pave the way for a streamlined process that will coordinate the dissemination of news information among member countries.
OIC members also approved the establishment of a “Muslim Journalists' Forum” among member countries in order to “unite journalists and foster communication between them so that it becomes a forum for facilitating cooperation and developing specific mechanisms in joint Islamic media action.”
The OIC will also open media coordination offices in some key countries to project the true image of Islam. The OIC general secretary will use these offices to implement media plans on many issues of utmost importance such as Islamophobia, the Palestine issue, development, trade, environment, tourism and the fight against poverty as well as other major issues. The OIC conference discussed a proposal for training journalists to counter stereotypes about Islam and Muslims in Western media.
Launching an OIC satellite channel was also another novel idea proposed by Gabon and approved by all members at the conference in Libreville. OIC TV will be an official media outlet, which can help the organization reach out and affect the public's opinion of Islam by conveying its messages. The OIC meeting also approved the Turkish proposal for establishing the OIC Broadcasting Regulatory Authorities Forum (IBRAF) among Muslim countries.
Noting that the recommendation made by Morocco on “Countering Defamation of Religions” was important, the meeting called on all Muslim countries “to support tabling the proposal at the UN so that a draft recommendation could be adopted calling on all states to respect the image of religions in all the various media and not to cause prejudice to religious symbols and sanctuaries, in demonstration of Islamic solidarity.”
Another resolution acknowledged a proposal for implementing a media program for Africa to highlight the continent's position and role in the Muslim world. Participants hope that this program will contribute to Africa's economic, cultural, tourism and natural potential.
In order to respond to challenges stemming from computer security incidents in member states, the meeting considered supporting the OIC Computer Emergency Response Team (OIC-CERT). It called on member states to direct its relevant agencies to cooperate with this team in the field of information and communication technologies (ICTs), which the OIC said has become a crucial factor of development and stability.
The conference has set up a committee to follow-up on the resolutions adopted at the conference. The committee members include Morocco, Gabon, Iran (past, present and next chairmen) and the OIC Secretary General. Iran will host the next meeting in 2014.