x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

PUIC delegates condemn the West's Islamophobia

At gathering in the capital, attendees also urge UN adoption of a plan to grant Palestine statehood without negotiating with Israel

A woman wearing a niqab participates in a protest in France last February.
A woman wearing a niqab participates in a protest in France last February.

ABU DHABI // Delegates at a major Islamic summit here condemned sectarian violence in Muslim countries and the Islamophobia that it says is plaguing the West.

They also called for the immediate lifting of economic sanctions on Islamic countries, including Iran, and accused the Israeli Mossad of orchestrating the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists.

"It is essential to work on halting the tide of Islamophobia," Abdulaziz al Ghurair, the speaker of the UAE Federal National Council and head of the executive committee of the Parliamentary Union of OIC member countries (PUIC), said yesterday.

"Islam with its principles and values has become a target that is mixed with terrorism in a lot of Western circles," he said.

But some of the resolutions adopted highlighted the gulf that exists between the collective demands of Muslim parliaments and the actual policies of individual nations, as well as the limited reach of the supposed representatives of Muslim people.

Indeed, delegates say they often do not have the power to issue decisions and that their role is limited to proposing solutions to the leaders of Islamic countries.

"We have collective issues, but there are also specificities for each country that must be kept in mind," said Zeinab Radwan, the deputy speaker of the Egyptian parliament.

Mr al Ghurair said that Western attempts to interfere in the Muslim world under the guise of protecting the region's Christians were "a natural extension of Islamophobia", a result of a "lack of Western trust and knowledge of the tolerant reality of Islam".

His comments came amid a concerted campaign in the Muslim world to respond forcefully to bombings that targeted Coptic Christians on New Year's Eve in Alexandria. A suicide bomber killed 21 worshippers and injured scores of others in the Egyptian coastal city.

The union "strongly condemns the growing tide of hatred towards religions", including the "bombing of mosques [and] churches", stressing that places of worship must be protected and dubbing as "criminal" the bombing of the Egyptian church, according to the resolutions.

It rejected what it called politically motivated attempts to equate Islam with terrorism, while condemning sectarian violence in the Muslim world.

One of the resolutions denounced the labelling of Islamic countries as state sponsors of terrorism for supporting the resistance in Palestine and Lebanon, statements that seem aimed at deflecting criticism towards Iranian support for Hizbollah, the Lebanese militia.

The session also featured what appeared to be a veiled criticism of France's ban on burqas.

"The manifestations of Islamophobia in Europe are taking on an institutional, and sometimes legislative, quality which warns of widespread violations of the rights of Muslims," Mr al Ghurair said.

The lack of outright condemnation of the burqa ban reflects an unease among some OIC parliaments at criticising the West for such measures while some Muslim countries, such as Tunisia under the rule of the now deposed president, Zine al Abedine Ben Ali, have restrictions on the veil.

The PUIC adopted a series of resolutions aimed at strengthening the Palestinian Authority's efforts to gain recognition for a Palestinian state without negotiating with Israel, calling on the United Nations Security Council to adopt such a plan. Muslim countries must elevate Palestinian diplomatic missions, the council said, calling on the UN to adopt a resolution creating a Palestinian state according to the 1967 borders and with Jerusalem as its capital.

But the language of some of the resolutions highlighted the limited reach of the body, whose decisions often contradict the stated policies of its member states.

For example, the council called on the international community to force Israel to give up its nuclear weapons. Though most Muslim countries agree that Israel's nuclear arsenal should be dealt with, many Gulf countries express concern about Iran's nuclear programme and have called on the Islamic Republic to open its nuclear facilities to the UN's nuclear watchdog.

One of the PUIC's resolutions stated that the union "strongly rejects the principle of imposing any kind of sanctions, whether unilateral or multilateral, on any Islamic state", in addition to demanding "their immediate lifting".

But some Muslim countries, including the UAE, pledged to enforce UN sanctions directed at Iran.




Iranian calls off boycott


ABU DHABI // Ali Larijani, the speaker of the Iranian parliament, has decided to attend a top-level meeting of Muslim parliamentarians in Abu Dhabi today, reversing a planned boycott.

Iran had said earlier this week that it would not be sending a representative to the meeting because it was against a UAE proposal that would create a committee to resolve disputes between Muslim countries.

Kazem Jalali, an Iranian MP, had said the proposal would create divisions between Muslim countries and was motivated by the United States, Great Britain and Israel. However, Mr Larijani arrived in the UAE yesterday.

The Iranian Mehr news agency said Mr Larijani had come in person to protest against the committee’s proposal, which will be put to a vote this week, and to talk with Emirati officials.

The agency said the UAE wanted to raise the issue of Iran’s occupation of the islands of Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunbs through the committee.

UAE officials said the committee would deal with more than 200 disputes between Muslim nations and was not intended to single out the dispute over the three UAE islands occupied by Iran.

* Kareem Shaheen