Head of OSCE human rights office expresses concern about outcome of Swiss minaret ban referendum

The director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), Ambassador Janez Lenarcic, expressed concern today at the outcome of the referendum held in Switzerland on Sunday on the ban of the construction of minarets.

“A blanket prohibition of minarets is not consistent with OSCE commitments on freedom of religion or belief and the principle of non-discrimination based on religion,” Lenarcic said in Athens, where he will participate in the OSCE Ministerial Council, to be held tomorrow and Wednesday. The referendum, launched by the Swiss People’s Party and the Federal Democratic Union, was backed by 57.5 percent of voters and a majority of cantons.

Chairmanship conference on Intolerance and Discrimination

The document relates the view expressed by european Imams and Ministers who met in Vienna in 2006, and that was expressed at a OSCE conference in Cordoba in 2007.

The position of these public actors underlines that Islam in Europe is theologically compatible with the principles of democracy, pluralism and human rights. It then focusses on the integration of muslims on the sociological, educational, political, economical, gender level, etc.

Governments struggle as militants refine Web tactics

Islamist militants are becoming more skilled at tailoring their message to specific audiences, including women and children, and Western societies are struggling to find a response. That was the message from a meeting hosted by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) this week, attended by leading experts on Islamist radicalisation. Alexandra Zawadil reports.

The Spanish Minister of Justice argues that Islamophobia must be fought so that it doesn’t end in another Holocaust

The Minister of Justice, Mariano Fern_ndez Bermejo, hopes the current anti-Islamic trend will not end in the type of persecution experienced by the Jewish community. We can not fall under the temptation of blaming a religious community for the crimes committed in their name. Bermejo’s statements were made during the Intolerance and Discrimination Conference organized by OSCE.

Spain Hosts conference to discuss Islamophobia

An international two-day event presented by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) went underway in Cordoba to discuss Islamophobia. The goals of the event included thorough discussions on intolerance and discrimination related to unemployment, education, and housing. Delegations from 56 nations attended the conference, highlighting a sharp rise in Islamophobia since the end of the Cold War – long before the September 11, 2001 attacks.

OSCE Conference on Intolerance against Muslims in the West

Europe’s first major conference on intolerance against Muslims wrapped up in Spain with participants stressing that media and education hold the key to solving the problem. “Education is a fundamental instrument in the prevention and treatment of intolerance and discrimination against Muslims,” Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos told the two-day gathering organized by the OSCE in the southern city of Cordoba. Spain currently holds the rotating presidency of the 56-nation member Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

OSCE Concerned At Dutch Climate Of Fear For Muslims

By Emma Thomasson AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Europe’s main democracy and rights watchdog expressed concern on Friday about increasing Dutch intolerance towards Muslims that was fanned by the murder last year of a filmmaker critical of Islam. Omur Orhun, ambassador on combating discrimination against Muslims for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), was in the Netherlands to discuss the position of Muslim immigrants. “Holland was reputed to be a country of tolerance where integration, as compared to other European countries, had been achieved acceptably. But recent events have shown there is a problem,” he told a news conference ending a three-day visit. “Especially from representatives of some civil society organisations there were repeatedly feelings of fear expressed. Not claims of physical attacks or abuse, but a climate of fear.” Home to almost 1 million Muslims or 6 percent of the population, the country’s reputation for tolerance and social harmony was shattered by the murder last November of outspoken filmmaker Theo van Gogh and its violent aftermath. A Dutch-Moroccan man was charged with the killing, allegedly motivated by Van Gogh’s criticism of Islam. Dozens of mosques, and Muslim schools were attacked in apparent retaliation. Orhun, who met Dutch politicians as well as Turkish, Moroccan and Surinamese migrant groups and human rights organisations, said the fact the government had invited him to visit the country showed it wanted to tackle the situation. “There is a problem in Holland as far as tolerance and non-discrimination is concerned,” he said. “But the situation is not tragic and the problem can solved with common sense and trying to build bridges.” The Turkish diplomat said tension was on the rise in many Western countries over Muslim immigrants and said he hoped to visit the United States, Germany, France and Britain soon. “There is mistrust and stigmatisation of Muslims and a growing fault line between the Muslim communities and the host societies,” Orhun said. Orhun recommended that Islam should not be politicised by countries that are home to Muslim migrants or by the immigrants themselves, who must also do more to distance themselves from radicalism and condemn violence committed in Islam’s name. Western governments could also do more to counter stigmatising of Muslim youths, for example by helping them get apprenticeships for jobs, he said. “The sense of being accepted would tend to decrease this radicalisation. Equal opportunities would also create lesser possibilities, lesser chances of radicalisation,” he said.