My Visit To The United Nations. A Clash Of Civilizations
Canada’s non-election to the UN Security Council doesn’t come as a complete surprise. It’s obvious that Canada’s entry was barred primarily by the OIC (Organization of Islamic Conference) which has a permanent delegation to the United Nations, with 57 member states and a powerful grip due to their large numbers. Adding insult to injury is a message by the president of the Canadian Arab Federation (CAF), titled, "Don't Give Canada a Security Council Seat.” It seems that the OIC have spokespersons right here in Canada.
Last month I was invited to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva (UNHRC) as member of an NGO on human rights, and for the first time I observed a direct clash of civilizations.
The OIC was ostensibly at UNHRC in Geneva like others, to address issues of human rights violations. In the entire week that I attended the sessions, not a single one of them mentioned human rights violation in their respective countries. After getting quite shocked at this blatant display of denial, I did some research and found that the OIC is a tightly knit club and their only purpose in being at the UN is to undermine Israel at every step and accuse the West of Islamophobia so that they can fall back on a victim ideology.
I had a personal experience with this. On Thursday September 17 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, International PEN, with support from three other organizations and the Norwegian Mission to the UN Geneva, hosted a public meeting called "Faith and Free Speech, Defamation of Religions and Freedom of Expression." The consensus that emerged from the meeting was that criminalizing defamation of religion is not the way forward.
Canadian John Ralston Saul was chair of the panel. He said that pluralism and freedom of speech require the freedom to criticize and be criticized. He explained that human rights are not attached to ideologies, philosophies or faith, they are attached to individuals; he said that there are many religions but only one humanity.
Agnes Callamard, Executive Director of Article 19 spoke about the critical question of how do we deal with defamation of faith and religious intolerance without getting the state involved? One solution suggested was more interfaith dialogue to diffuse hate speech while others suggested that interfaith was not enough, we have to involve all of civil society, believers and non-believers alike.
Tariq Ramadan, who is also a darling of the Islamists, spoke at length about "the West", "Western values", “us” and “them” and the fact that every few days Muslim minorities are dealing with issues. He mentioned the Florida Quran burning proposal, the ban on minarets in Switzerland and the ban on the burqa in France. He claimed that double standards mean some criticism is acceptable and some, such as anti-Semitism, is not, and argued that no freedom is absolute. He seemed unaware that freedom of religion or belief is absolute in international law and in the West, even though it is not in many Islamic countries.
I was amazed at how inevitably most of the Muslim speakers brought the larger debate down to lowest common denominator: the victimhood of Muslims in the West. Adding fuel to this fire was the Pakistani Ambassador who is also spokesman for the OIC in Geneva. He said that Muslims are being mercilessly persecuted all over the West and Islamophobia and double standards are rampant. The chair had offered him two minutes but he ranted on for five about how Muslims are victimized and harassed in the West, and he too brought up the Quran burning issue.
Later I attended other sessions of the UNHRC where we brought up issues of slavery, honour killing and stoning of women. None of the OIC countries would accept that these problems exist, and when they had a chance to make their presentations, they spoke with one voice against Israel and the US, and of course their own victimization.
Seeing that Canada calls Israel a friend, it’s no wonder that the OIC blocked our entry into the UN. Let’s consider this a blessing in disguise because who wants to sit through constant bashing of one country. In the eyes of the OIC, unless you damn Israel and America, you are all Zionist agents.
Raheel Raza is an activist for human rights and author of Their Jihad – Not My Jihad.