EUROPE AND HOSTILITY TOWARD ISLAM

EUROPE AND HOSTILITY TOWARD ISLAM
By Ekrem Dumanli

17/7/2005- At the latest Council of Europe summit which was held on May 16-17, 2005 and attended by 46 countries, a decision was made to fight hostility toward Islam. Turkey played a significant role in that Warsaw summit decision. One day before the decision was made, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a speech in which he pointed out the rapid spread of hostility toward Islam in the West and warned of the likely damages it would bring.

The Council of Europe declaration includes several important details. For instance, the concept of 'hostility toward Islam' is addressed in the declaration in this way: 'We fiercely condemn Islamophobia and anti-Semitism particularly under the blanket of any form of intolerance and discrimination based on gender, race and religious beliefs...'

It is a significant detail that Islamophobia is mentioned along with anti-Semitism. According to the outcome of the meeting, hostility toward Islam is to be monitored just as anti-Semitism is and anti-Islam activities are to be included in the Council's reports. The unit that monitors crimes based on racism and discrimination, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), is to report on countries where anti-Islamism is on the rise. The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) is to assist relevant units of the Council of Europe in preparing these reports...

For the Council of Europe to encourage efforts to build dialogue among religions and cultures carries a great deal of significance. Inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue does not mean the annihilation or transformation of one culture or religion by another as some ignorant agitators believe. On the contrary, the sort of dialogue that occurs among followers of different faiths allows participants to appreciate the richness of their own culture and religion while working to understand the 'other's.' Bigots that do not appreciate the richness of their own culture and religion always prefer fighting and disputes...

The Council of Europe's decision to fight anti-Islamism and to activate its internal units for implementation of the sanctions is an effort to remove a danger that has gradually come to be felt quite deeply in recent years. The September 11th terrorist attacks poisoned the lives of all Muslims like a nightmare. Such an atmosphere has emerged that every Muslim was accepted to be a terrorist. But, Islam just even as a word means peace and well-being in itself. It was an historic mistake to link a religion, which in its essence contains love for Allah, and corollary love and mercy for mankind, with global violence. Despite the reality that marginal groups exerting violence have not seen a general acceptance in any Islamic countries, and even met with hatred in most of them, Muslims all over the world are treated like criminals. In fact, these violent groups harm Muslims the most...

Negative Western generalizations about Muslims based on prejudice unfortunately only managed to force some Muslims into radicalism. In general, Muslims already believed that the West was applying double standards to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Adding to this common belief were the September 11th disaster and the subsequent occupation of Iraq as well as the publication of photos and images that truly disturbed Muslims there, all of which paved (and continue to pave) the way for deepening rage in the Islamic world...

The Council of Europe made the right decision at the right time, because following the end of the Cold War, the most serious threat facing the world is a clash of civilizations (or, one could say, a clash of religions). The first signs of this threat have been seen. These signs prove what a big disaster waits on our doorstep if action is not taken. It is best to rebuild cultural bridges as a precaution. Europe has grabbed at the chance to change its anti-Islamic image among Muslims by signing such a decision. This is also important, because the more negative judgments there are regarding Islam's image in the West, the worse the West's image becomes in the Islamic world. Well-intended steps toward world peace cannot be one-sided. In this regard as well, the decision by the Council of Europe is of historic importance.
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