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."
Following a military coup, Turkey banned all non-Turkish broadcasts between 1983 and 1991.
Crimean Tatars oppose joining with Russia, as they fear a repeat of the events of 1944 when Soviet dictator Josef Stalin ethnically cleansed them from their homeland.
American bloggers Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, who like Geert Wilders were also banned from entering the UK after being invited to speak to English Defence League members, will also be on the panel.
Legoland Winsor was due to host a private party for Muslim children on Sunday.
Maksat Hajji Toktomushev has been elected as the new grand mufti of Kyrgyzstan.
Chris Johannides, who is of Greek Cypriot origin, was banned by the Conservative Party after he compared Muslim womens' burkas to black dustbin liners.
Quebec survey says a draft law to ban state employees from wearing religious symbols is targeting women who wear a headscarf.
The council had described the killing of endangered animals as "unethical, immoral and sinful", council official Asrorun Ni'am Sholeh.
The opening of the museum was attended by many notables including Yusuf Islam, formerly known as the musician Cat Stevens. “It is a fantastic project and it is going to grow… it is just going to grow”, Yusuf Islam was quoted by SBS.
A former anti-Islamist politician, Arnoud van Doorn, has started a new Islamic party in Holland after accepting Islam.
'It is the strong view of many of those involved in counter-terrorism that there should be a clearer legal position, so that those children who are being turned into potential killers or suicide bombers can be removed into care – for their own safety and for the safety of the public,' Boris Johnson said.
The mosque in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, is due to be open by 2015.
As well as Muslim women, Sikh men, who are also required to cover their hair, will also benefit from the new rule change.
The new scheme, which is currently being tested at the holy mosque in Mecca, may soon make its way to the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, Islam's second holiest site.
In the video, which is set in Ancient Egypt with the singer posing as Cleopatra, she was seen zapping a man wearing pendant with the name of Allah on it to dust.
Legoland cancels day for Muslim families after threats from far-right extremists.