Religious intolerance and incitement is a recipe for disaster: OIC Secretary-General

DOHA: The Secretary General of the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Iyad Ameen Madani, while agreeing with the need to maintain an open, constructive and respectful debate of ideas, has emphasised the importance of distinguishing between respectful and critical discussion, which is part of freedom of expression, from hateful, insulting and defamatory discourse which goes in line with hate speech that leads to incitement to hatred, discrimination and violence.

“The need to clearly draw a line between free speech and hate speech by determining the threshold between incitement to hatred and freedom of expression in accordance with Articles19 ‘&’ 20 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” Mr. Madani said in his inaugural statement at the 4th Istanbul Process Meeting in Doha.

The two-day meeting is attended by diplomats and experts from the European Union, the U.S., and the OIC. The Istanbul Process aims to bridge the gap between the West’s approach to fighting religious intolerance and the approach of the OIC.

The OIC Secretary-General briefly commented on the history of the Istanbul process and stressed its importance as a mechanism in developing a better understanding of different perspectives, interests and concerns related to combating incitement to hatred, discrimination and/or violence on religious grounds.

He also urged the international community to make the best use of this platform for devising specific course of action and steps for the full and effective implementation of the Action Plan contained in Resolution16/18.

Madani said that in today’s world of increased connectivity, multiculturalism and fast flowing information and migration, religious intolerance and incitement is a recipe for disaster that would have serious repercussions for the unity, stability and coherence of the affected societies, as well as pose a threat to regional and global peace and security.

He accordingly proposed that while focusing on interfaith dialogue as a means to advancing freedom of religion (the theme of the 4th Meeting), participants must also look at the broader picture and try addressing inter-related issues, such as causes, and the tools available to address the problem – in particular the loopholes and grey areas.

“Interfaith and intercultural dialogue must also be complemented with integrated international efforts to combat incitement to religious intolerance, discrimination and hatred through effective legal means,” he added.

In conclusion, the OIC Secretary-General reiterated the importance of utilising the Istanbul process as a vehicle to meticulously discuss and address the triple gap of interpretation, implementation and information through a soft law approach by consensus. Such an approach could take the shape of agreed principles, guidelines or declarations that could reflect the common understanding of international community on this important issue.