World Bulletin/News Desk
Muslim leaders were in unison at the United Nations this week arguing that the West was hiding behind its defense of freedom of speech and ignoring cultural sensitivities in the aftermath of anti-Islam slurs that have raised fears of a widening East-West cultural divide.
A video made in California depicting the Prophet Mohammad as a fool sparked the storming of U.S. and other Western embassies in many Islamic countries. The crisis deepened when a French magazine published caricatures of the Prophet.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said it was time to put an end to the protection of Islamophobia masquerading as the freedom to speak freely.
"Unfortunately, Islamophobia has also become a new form of racism like anti-Semitism. It can no longer be tolerated under the guise of freedom of expression. Freedom does not mean anarchy," he told the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly on Friday.
"Freedom does not mean anarchy. It means responsibility. The purpose of the Islamophobia is clear and simple: It aims to create an abstract, and an imaginary enemy from the millions of peace loving Muslims all over the world. Regretfully, accepting generalities, stereotypes and prejudice as truth, many people unknowingly become Islamophobic. However, no agenda, no provocation, no attack, no incitement of hatred can darken the bright face of Islam," he said.
Davutoglu said international community needed to take swift measures, adding that the United Nations, in particular, must lead this effort and should provide the international legal framework to that end.
"We are resolved to actively pursue this objective and work diligently with the like-minded nations and international organizations to ensure that we take a united and effective stance against Islamophobia and all forms of hate crimes," he said.
Egypt's newly elected president, Mohamed Mursi, voiced similar sentiments in his speech on Wednesday.
"Egypt respects freedom of expression, freedom of expression that is not used to incite hatred against anyone," he said. "We expect from others, as they expect from us, that they respect our cultural specifics and religious references, and not impose concepts or cultures that are unacceptable to us."
Mursi was one of the first leaders to be democratically elected after Arab Spring revolutions that led to changes in the governments of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen last year.
While repeating his condemnations of the video, U.S. President Barack Obama staunchly defended free speech, riling some of those leaders.
"The strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech - the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy," Obama said in a 30-minute speech dominated by this theme.
Speaking after Obama, President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan, where more than a dozen people were killed in protests against the anti-Islam film, demanded insults to religion be criminalized.
"The international community must not become silent observers and should criminalize such acts that destroy the peace of the world and endanger world security by misusing freedom of expression," he said.
Highlighting the anger of some, about 150 protesters demanded "justice" and chanted "there is no god but Allah" outside the U.N. building on Thursday. One placard read: "Blaspheming my Prophet must be made a crime at the U.N."
Foreign ministers from the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation met on Friday. The film topped the agenda.
"This incident demonstrates the serious consequences of abusing the principle of freedom of expression on one side and the freedom of demonstration on the other side," OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu told reporters.
Human Rights First and Muslim Public Affairs Council, two U.S.-based advocacy groups, warned of the risks of regulating such freedoms.
"Countless incidents show that when governments or religious movements seek to punish offences in the name of combating religious bigotry, violence then ensues and real violations of human rights are perpetrated against targeted individuals," they said in a joint statement.
The 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council, dominated by developing states, has passed non-binding resolutions against defamation of religion for over a decade. Similar ones were endorsed in the U.N. General Assembly.
European countries, the United States and several Latin American nations in the council opposed the resolutions, arguing that while individual people have human rights, religions do not, and that existing U.N. pacts - if enforced - were sufficient to curb incitement to hatred and violence.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle attempted to dampen talk of a clash of civilizations on Thursday.
"Some would have us believe that the burning embassy buildings are proof of a clash of civilizations," Westerwelle said in his U.N. address. "We must not allow ourselves to be deluded by such arguments. This is not a clash of civilizations. It is a clash within civilizations. It is also a struggle for the soul of the movement for change in the Arab world."
Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting, has begun and World Bulletin has put together pictures that showcases Muslims from across the Islam world during this sacred month.
In Addis Ababa, turnout at mosques was so high that main streets had to be closed to make way for worshippers
West Bank cities are being decorated to celebrate holy month of Ramadan with Ramallah lighting the biggest lantern for Ramadan
According to a report by Calico Mercato website, the amount will be used to develop mosques and Islamic centers in Florence province.
Quran prints that were written during the Prophet Muhammads lifetime are now on display at the Berlin State Library
The mosque was first opened in 1901 but was seized and closed in the 1920's and then used first as a cinema and then as a restaurant that served alcohol. In 2002 restorations began to open the mosque for service
It is no known secret of the tremendous contribution of Muslim scientists to the world of astronomy. Amongst them is the astronomical table including data that was first set up by Arab astronomer Ibn al-Shatir that is almost 700 years old. Ibrahim Muteferrika, a Hungarian priest who converted to Islam was the first to bring the printing press to the Ottoman Empire as well Ibrahim Tiflisi providing detailed descriptions of a solar eclipse.
Local Muslim community in Belgium calls for recruiting chaplains who can educate youth about religion.
Australian Muslim TV studio, Islam TV, aims to counter media 'bias'. Aims to offer opposition to what it sees as negative representations of Islam in country's mainstream media.
Growing up in a large lower middle-class family on his father’s teaching salary, Makbul Patel said he learned early the value of a dollar. In his private practice, he saw that people were in need and wanted to help them, saying that this project is something that is close to his heart
In a historic first for the United States, an American Muslim college has now joined the nation’s community of accredited institutions of higher education.
After a spate of negative press on Canadian Muslims, the Choudry family have devised a unique way to tackle Islamophobia.
Various religious and civil rights organizations have filed friend-of-the-court briefs backing Samantha Elauf, who was denied a sales job because she wears a head scarf
Bosnian-American Indira Kaljo has successfully petitioned FIBA to allow the wearing of the hijab in domestic games, but not in international competition, yet.
Certification company boss says online videos claimed he supported terrorism