Answer: Not much.
If you read through the latest OIC (Organization of the Islamic Conference) press release, you’ll see that freedom of the press is never mentioned without being followed a “BUT” clause.
It is not possible for the OIC to discuss free expression without qualification, without exception, with hedging it about with boilerplate on “responsibility”, “respect”, “mutual understanding”, “dialogue”, etc.
There is an obvious reason for this reluctance: to acknowledge an absolute right to free speech, a right that shall not be abridged, the OIC would have to admit the possibility that someone might criticize Islam.
And we can’t have that, can we?
Criticism of Islam is evidence of Islamophobia, and, as we all know by now, Islamophobia is the same thing as RACISM.
On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, here’s what a free press means to the OIC:
OIC Message on World Press Freedom Day
As the world celebrates World Press Freedom Day, the Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, delivered a message to the attention of press and media professionals. The text of the message is as follows:
As it does every year, the international community celebrates on May 3rd the World Press Freedom Day for 2009. It is, indeed, an appropriate time to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, evaluate press freedom across the world, protect the media from violations of its independence, pay tribute to outstanding journalists and media professionals who render valuable services in carrying out their duties or have lost their lives in the line of duty.
World Press Freedom Day offers an opportunity to encourage and articulate initiatives on press freedom, assess the scope and extent of press freedom throughout the world, as well as bring to the attention of all their responsibility vis-à-vis the freedom of the press.
Oh-oh. Here comes the responsibility part. Can you guess what’s next?
I am genuinely pleased on this occasion to express my sincere congratulations to press and media professionals. I highly regard and value the efforts deployed by journalists in conducting a mission that is so vital but is so often so ripe with risks and hazards. While carrying out their job, journalists tend to brave the difficulties and tribulations of their profession.
I would like to reiterate on this day the OIC’s staunch commitment to the principles of the freedom of expression and the freedom of the press, not merely as fundamental human rights in the broadest sense of the term, but, just as importantly, as noble values and inalienable universal principles so long as they do not breach the freedom of others or dent their right to their beliefs and cultural ideals.
That’s right: our freedoms are “inalienable and universal” so long as they do not “dent” the rights of others to their “cultural ideals”?
So what might those be?
– – – – – – – – –
That’s a pretty nebulous concept, considering that an inalienable right is about to be alienated. So let’s see the details. What are these specific ideals?
As this year’s theme for the celebration of the World Press Day bears on the potential of media in fostering dialogue, mutual understanding and reconciliation, we do believe at the OIC that the fundamental objective of dialogue revolves around understanding and diversity at the value level and rebutting misconceptions. We regard dialogue and convergence with the ‘Other’ as the appropriate framework and space where we can highlight our Islamic identity in the midst of cultural and linguistic diversity, and making the best of civilizational dialogue with the ‘Other’ to achieve harmony and build confidence in a bid to realize our ambition to contribute to a peaceful and secure world.
OK, now I get it.
So as long as we promote understanding, engage in civilizational dialogue, and don’t encourage misconceptions, we’re all right. Under those circumstances, Muslims can highlight their Islamic identity in the midst of all this bloody diversity, and we infidels will be allowed to keep our freedom of speech.
Whatever remains of it, anyway.
The OIC believes that the World Press Freedom Day should serve as a reminder of the role and the potential of media in fostering dialogue, mutual understanding and reconciliation among nations and peoples by embracing moral responsibility and shunning away from mobilization and confrontation.
In other words: No more Motoons!
No doubt, this year’s theme reflects a fundamental value dear to the OIC. We have always exhorted the media to make sure the principles of dialogue and understanding among nations and peoples stand at the core of their work and avoid any defamatory reference against any religion whatsoever. In so doing, the media would avoid the publication or dissemination of baseless information likely to give rise to discord and conflict, or put at risk the basic human rights of the followers of any religion.
So tell us, Prof. Ihsanoglu: what does “baseless information” consist of?
Is it the assertion that thousands of people are killed in terrorist attacks every year in the name of Allah? Is that baseless?
Those videos circulating on the internet of infidels being beheaded by masked mujahideen — are those baseless?
How about those “youths” in Malmö who shout “Allahu akhbar” while setting fires and pelting the police with stones?
Are they baseless?
This position was reinforced and confirmed in the OIC’s new Charter that was adopted at the 11th Session of the Islamic Summit held in March 2008 in Dakar, Senegal. For its part, the OIC Ten-year Program of Action, adopted by the 3rd Extraordinary Summit held in 2005 in Makkah, stipulates the need to promote the values of dialogue and understanding among nations and peoples.
During the Durban Review Conference held recently in Geneva, the OIC underscored the need for the international community to embrace and move within the spirit of moderation and dialogue, away from an approach driven by clash and confrontation. The OIC pointed out that in order build a world free from racism and racists practices, freedom of expression, being a fundamental right, should be exercised with responsibility and respect and upheld by internationally recognized ethical and professional principles that give due respect to diversity and elude calumny and denigration.
We avail ourselves of this occasion to put the accent anew on these values and call on the international community to espouse these values for us all to properly live up to our responsibilities.
So there you have it.
In order to determine that your free speech is acceptable, it will have to be proved to conform with “internationally recognized ethical and professional principles” and not be “baseless”.
In other words, there will be a Committee of Ethical and Professional Standards for the Press at the UN (along with numerous affiliated NGOs). All publications will have to pass its scrutiny.
In particular, all assertions about Islam will have to be approved by a Subcommittee for Baselessness.
Chaired by Yemen, with Libya, Bangladesh, Syria, and Cuba sitting on the committee.
You think this is a baseless paranoid fantasy?
Wait and see.
Hat tip: TB.