Jeddah, 28 August 2018: The OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (OIC-IPHRC) unreservedly condemns the malicious plan of the Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders to hold an international competition on the caricatures of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) later this year and calls upon the Dutch Government to take immediate steps to prevent this sacrilegious transgression, which has affected the religious sensitivities of over 1.6 billion Muslims around the world. The event, if permitted to take place, has the potential to inflame / promote a culture of intolerance and incitement to hatred. Such acts also result in a wider sense of alienation, rejection, and polarization among affected communities leading to discrimination and violence, an antithesis to the coveted ideals of multiculturalism and pluralism.
The Commission regards the freedom of expression as a key human right, which is vital for development of stable, peaceful and progressive democratic societies. However, the scope of freedom of expression, as provided in the Article 19 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights and more importantly Articles 19 & 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), clearly stipulate that it is not an absolute freedom/right, exercise of which carries with it ‘special duties and responsibilities’ to ensure societal cohesion, as well as respect for the right and reputation of others. The planned sacrilegious competition is a manifest attempt to ridicule the most revered personality of a pristine religion and a wilful endeavour to incite religious hatred and discrimination against Muslims, again a clear violation of the Article 20(2) of ICCPR.
Accordingly, the assertion of the Dutch Government to distance itself from Mr. Wilders’ planned competition is not enough as in accordance with the Article 20 of the ICCPR, it is the duty of every State to prohibit, by law, “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence”. The Dutch Government must, therefore, take immediate steps to prevent this event to protect the religious and cultural sensitivities of its own and the wider international Muslim population as well as to preserve the societal harmony and ideals of tolerance and multiculturalism that are the hallmark of Dutch society.
While squarely condemning these coordinated and often repeated acts of incitement to religious hatred/discrimination, the Commission urges Muslims around the world to continue to exercise restraint in their reaction to such malicious provocations, which are squarely intended to incite racial/ religious hatred, discrimination and violence under the garb of freedom of expression.
The Commission contends that the history of blasphemous actions of Mr. Wilders merely reflect his cheap attempts to play to the far-right gallery for narrow political gains at the cost of inciting religious hatred/intolerance and dividing the humanity. However, these acts cannot be disregarded as indiscretions of an eccentric individual, being clearly directed to disrupt the communal harmony and promote xenophobia, with the potential to be spread and replicated across Europe and beyond.
OIC-IPHRC emphasizes that growing xenophobia, intolerance and hatred in Europe in particular and the world at large could only be countered through promotion of tolerance, respect for cultural and religious diversity and enhanced interfaith and intercultural dialogue at all levels. IPHRC also endorses the OIC Secretary General’s statement that “it is time to put in place internationally binding legal instruments to prevent incitement, racism, discrimination (and) religious hatred”.
To that end, the Commission reiterates the critical need to fully and effectively implement the universally agreed UN Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18, which provides a comprehensive framework to combat religious intolerance through a multipronged action plan. It also urges the international community to uphold the laudable ideals of dialogue, mutual respect, tolerance and protection to the freedoms of religion and expression in accordance with the international human rights law.