Discussing the major step of the establishment of the commission, Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu stated, “Maybe one of the most important missions of the independent commission would be to bring forward, in the name of the Islamic world, a new approach in human rights on the world's agenda, thereby completely changing this present perception [of Islam] and counteracting the challenges of globalism.”
Speaking at the second meeting of the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission of the OIC, which was held in Ankara on Monday, Davutoğlu continued, “The commission needs to come up with a text which is in conformity with, and in fact surpasses, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” Davutoğlu's statement amounts to the rebuilding of the values of Islamic civilization in the context of human rights. “Without first materializing this revolution in mentality, it's very difficult for us to produce solutions to practical problems,” he added.
Although conceding that there are, at the moment, serious human rights violations occurring in the Islamic world, Davutoğlu stressed that Islam as a religion is totally compatible with human rights. He also noted that the concept that human rights as an idea had been injected in modern times into the Islamic world from outside is a mere illusion, “On the contrary, both theoretically and practically, these values, being based on Islamic faith, are values that have developed within Islamic civilization,” Davutoğlu stated.
As noted by the Turkish foreign minister, the 32nd verse of the Maide sura (chapter) in the Koran, which says that killing a single person is regarded as equal to killing all of humanity, amply supports this interpretation. This sura is particularly important in demonstrating that the essential principals of a new universal conception of human rights are present in Islam.
The establishment of such a commission is an important step for the Islamic world at a time of political transformation in the Middle East. Davutoğlu, urging the commission to act independently of the interests of the states, called on the commission to send rapporteurs to troubled areas in the world from Mali to Myanmar where human rights violations are occurring and to prepare reports. He also stated that sanctions should be brought to the agenda in accordance with the work of rapporteurs.
In its first year, the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission of the OIC has been a major focus of international attention. “It has enhanced the visibility of the OIC. Its true potential lies in enhancing the credibility of the OIC,” Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, secretary-general of the OIC, said at the meeting, drawing attention to another role the commission could play.
The commission has already succeeded in evolving a priority list of issues to be addressed, including the rights of women and children and their right to development in society, thereby removing misconceptions surrounding Islam and Islamic countries that women in these cultures are oppressed. In the sphere of rights of children, the commission may also play a role by examining the compatibility between the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the OIC Covenant on the Rights of the Child in Islam.
Noting that the work and activities of the commission will be scrutinized, with high expectations from some quarters and with doubts and skepticism from others, İhsanoğlu remarked to members of the commission, “It's in your hands to ‘make or break' the credibility of the first independent voice on human rights in the Muslim world.”