The OIC does not speak for Muslims

by Tarek Fatah, Muslim Canadian Congress, UN Geneva

I speak to you as a Muslim who was born in Pakistan and lived there for 30 years and moved to Saudi Arabia where I worked for 10 years. Since 1987 I have called Canada my home. As an author, journalist and Muslim activist, I have seen the role and agenda of both the soft and hardcore jihadis unfold before my eyes and across the Muslim world.

I approach the issue of freedom of speech and freedom of expression embodied in the 1948 UN Declaration of Universal Human Rights as defending a treasured right that few of my co-religionists can dream off, let alone cherish or possess. We are over a billion strong, but almost all of us live under varying forms and degrees of dictatorship and oppression. Barring a few exceptions such as Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia, and very recently Pakistan, Muslims live under the tyranny of rulers like those of Iran and Saudi Arabia who have used the religion of Islam as a tool to secure absolute power, and to trample all over the human rights of their citizens.

Barely a day goes by without news of gross violations of human rights of Muslims living in so-called Islamic countries. Whether it is honour killings of sisters and mothers or the harassment of gays and calls for their death; whether it is imprisonment of political opponents or attacks on minorities, we Muslims who live in the West are constantly reminded of the rights we enjoy under secular parliamentary democracies as individual human beings.

It is our lives as Muslims in the West that compels us to step forward and expose the duplicity of the OIC when it seeks to water down the 1948 UN Human Rights Declaration and substitute it with so called Islamic human rights. We are alarmed that not only is the UN declaration under attack, but that the Rappateur on Freedom of Expression is being asked to report back on those who are brave enough to question medieval superstitions that challenge the elementary norms of reason and rationalism. Allowing the OIC States to oversee individual human rights is like putting the fox to guard on the chickens.

Life in the OIC countries is the reason why millions of Muslims have escaped and taken refuge in Europe and North America. We are testament of their failures. They rule their populations with a sense of entitlement that they believe is their God-given right, and millions suffer under their tutelage. I urge you to not fall for the charm offensive of those who falsely claim to speak on behalf of Muslims and Islam. They do not, and their record speaks for itself.
While the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran claims he is answerable only to Allah, the King of Saudi Arabia claims to rule in God’s name. Next door in Egypt, a military dictator has monopolised power for 30 years, jailed his critics and his opponent Ayman Nour continues to rot in prison. The difference is that while Iran and Saudi Arabia oppress Muslims in the name of Islam, the Egyptian dictator does so in the name of American sponsored moderation. The result for the ordinary Muslim is the same: the complete absence of human dignity that can only be guaranteed if the 1948 UN Declaration is honoured and implemented in letter and in spirit.

The use of Islam to slaughter fellow Muslims is not a new phenomenon. In 1965 Islamist vigilantes massacred a million of their fellow countrymen in Indonesia; in 1971 Pakistani armed forces conducted a genocide that killed one million Muslim Bangladeshis in the name of Islam. In 1979 an Islamist Military man, General Zia ul Haq who presented himself as the ultimate saviour of Islam, hanged the elected Prime Minister of Pakistan. Five years later, the Sudanese Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood hanged the great Islamic scholar Muhammad Mahmood Taha after accusing him of apostasy.

After stifling individual liberty and freedom of thought and debate that would include even discussing Islam and how it has been used to oppress and plunder, the Islamists, led by Saudi Arabia and Iran, have brought their agenda to the United Nations Human Rights Council with the aim of legitimising their suffocating ideology. After depriving their own populations of the rights the rest of humanity seeks to embrace; after creating failed societies, the Islamists are using the OIC to validate the crimes that have led to trauma and dysfunctional societies across the Muslim world. We should not let them succeed.

As a Canadian, I am deeply proud of my country’s contribution in the drafting of the 1948 UN declaration. As a Canadian Muslim I am conscious of the fact that the 1948 declaration gave me the rights to practise my faith as I deem fit in a country where my community is less that 3% of the population, yet is treated as equals.

Why should Muslims only enjoy human rights and freedom of expression to discuss their own religion where they live as minorities, yet never be able to do so where they form a majority? Why should I fear for my life simply because I ask why so many Muslim societies have failed despite their enormous natural wealth?

Today the same people who have smashed human rights with an iron fist where they govern, and oppress Muslims under their rule, have the audacity to appear before the UN and demand that that their vile policies be validated by the Human Rights Council and that anyone who dares to criticise the principles under which they govern as absolute monarchs, dictators or self-anointed guardians of Allah, be silenced. This should not happen. I as a Muslim urge you to not abandon the millions of Muslims who do not have a voice.

To suggest that any criticism of Islamism, the political ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Iranian Ayatollahs, is anti-Islamic is a bogus and fraudulent position. I would contend that my religion Islam demands that I stand up to these bullies and take away from their right to put padlocks on poetry and chastity belts on independent thinking.

People who were not insulted or offended when the Saudis demolished the Prophet Muhammad’s 1400-year-old House in Mecca, but who ran wild at the sight of Danish cartoons, can at best be described as men who have got their priorities wrong, and at worst as hypocrites.

These Islamists and the governments they control propagate man-made Islamic shariah laws as an alternative to western secular democratic law, yet they oppose any scrutiny of the very same shariah laws that sanction slavery, racism, misogyny and homophobia. My message to these dictators is this: If you continue to pour millions into Canada and other Western countries to promote Islamism, then don’t complain if we Muslims join our fellow citizens and put your political ideology to scrutiny.

Islam is a religion, but Islamism is a political ideology. They are not the same despite what the OIC claims. Everyone has a right to practise Islam without fear of persecution. However, Islamism is nothing more than the use of Islam to secure power over an already marginalized community of Muslims. Proponents of Islamism had better be prepared for criticism, not just from non-Muslims, but from Muslims, who have been the primary victims of this totalitarian ideology.

My message to the OIC is this: Please clean your own house before trying to subvert the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights. Go first and end the slave-like conditions of dark skinned Muslims in the Persian Gulf before spreading your failed ideology and recipe of failure to the UN.

Those who behead people in public and stone women to death, practise apartheid in their Kingdom and wave the sword of apostasy over the heads of their fellow Muslim critics, should be the last people to speak on behalf of their victims. Too many Muslims have fallen victim to your rule. We do not want the UN to be tainted by sanctioning these practices.

If the agenda of the OIC is allowed to succeed, and so-called Islamic Human Rights is allowed to deviously “compliment” the 1948 UN Declaration, then ladies and gentlemen, my speech today would be in violation of the Charter of Islamic Human Rights because I have spoken against the Shariah.

Equality of all human beings, not just in their dignity and respect, but equality of their rights before the law must remain sacrosanct. Otherwise you would have failed the one billion Muslims of this world who live under regimes that implement thought control as a holy doctrine.

Perhaps, I could best explain the relationship between Islam and Islamism this way. Islam is to Islamism, as Uranium is to weapons of mass destruction.

In closing, I want you to imagine a scenario from the good old days of the Cold War. How you would have reacted if the Warsaw Pact countries came to this session and said: “We want the rest of the world to embrace communism. However, there cannot be any discussion about the demerits or flaws of our political ideology because we feel offended when the rest of you discuss it; you are not experts”?. You would have laughed in their faces. You certainly would not have said: “We agree, there can be no discussion of communism in this forum”.
Today you have to reject the OIC demands with the same vigour that the free world rejected the Gulags.

Tarek Fatah is founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress and author of “Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State” (Wiley 2008).

This speech was given at the IHEU parallel conference “An analysis and Discussion of Religion and Freedom of Expression at the Human Rights Council” held at the UN Human Rights Council on 17 September 2008.