OIC-IPHRC voices concerns over enacting proposed French laws to ‘reinforce secularism’
The OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) has closely followed the debate surrounding proposed French plans to address the so-called “separatism” in its Islamic community and to “liberate French Islam from foreign influences”, according to an IPHRC statement released on Saturday.
While agreeing with the need to comprehensively counter extremism through the elimination of ‘ghettoization’ and introduction of targeted socio-economic reforms in education and job creation, the polemical remarks concerning ‘Islam in Crisis All Over the World’ have created an atmosphere of national anxiety among the law-abiding and peace-loving French Muslims who have repeatedly and categorically disassociated themselves from terrorist acts committed by individuals in the name of religion.
Islam is a religion of peace, and over 6 million French Muslims continue to play a vibrant role in promoting a multicultural society. However, the growing political rhetoric of transforming ‘Islam in France’ to an ‘Islam of France’ coming from mainstream leadership could further widen the schism to the detriment of the fulfillment of the objectives for which these proposed new measures/laws are to be enacted. Any attempt to domesticate Islam or associate its ideological foundations with terrorism to justify the efforts for reengineering or reorienting is not only fundamentally flawed but also counterproductive for the creation of peaceful and harmonious coexistence, the Commission added.
The Commission highlighted that the State’s obligations as a guarantor of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion are one of the key pillars of a democratic society. The minimum international standards required for an effective constitutional guarantee of the right of freedom of religion or belief are enshrined in Art.18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Art. 18 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, further strengthened by the General Comment No. 22 of the Human Rights Committee, Art. 5d of International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. Understanding contained in these articles is duly supported by Art. 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights and ensuing jurisprudence. The Helsinki Final Act, Concluding Document of the Madrid Meeting, and Principle 16.3 of the 1989 Concluding Document of the Vienna Meeting of Representatives of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe provided that “in order to ensure the freedom of the individual to profess and practice religion or belief, the participating States will, among other things, … grant upon their request to communities of believers, practicing or prepared to practice their faith within the constitutional framework of their States, recognition of the status provided for them in their respective countries”. This commitment precludes any administrative or legislative measures aimed at creating any particular brand or version of religion compliant to the requirements of a majority.
IPHRC, while condemning terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, unequivocally rejects any branding and stigmatizing of Islam and its adherents with terrorism. Despite being the major sufferers of terrorist acts, OIC countries’ unwavering commitment to combating the menace of terrorism through international cooperation and solidarity is a testament of their noble faith in Islam’s laudable principles of moderation, tolerance, and peaceful coexistence.