Last month we noted that the ill-defined term “Islamophobia” has been used repeatedly in official publications, papers, and interventions submitted at Human Dimension meetings or other functions hosted by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
As a relevant example, consider “Guidelines for Educators on Countering Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims: Addressing Islamophobia through Education”, which was published jointly [pdf] by OSCE/ODIHR, the Council of Europe, and UNESCO in 2011. The document contains 49 instances of the word “Islamophobia” (including those used in footnotes and cited URLs), yet the closest it comes to a definition of the term is this brief description found on page 17:
“‘Islamophobia’, a term which is widely used by NGOs and frequently appears in the media, tends to denote fear, hatred or prejudice against Islam and Muslims.”
The above passage does not qualify in any way as a definition of “Islamophobia”, and yet the word forms the basis for an entire guidebook officially published by OSCE. It is completely unacceptable that an undefined term be employed in such a manner, especially when the topic referenced is currently so controversial.
At the Supplementary Human Dimension meeting in Vienna on July 12, 2013, in response to the repeated use of the term “Islamophobia” during various OSCE proceedings, Dr. Harald Fiegl (on behalf of Mission Europa Netzwerk Karl Martell) requested a definition of the word:
In response, the Turkish government representative Mr. Umut Topcuoglu quoted a definition of “Islamophobia” that had been used previously:
The definition itself [pdf] was written by Ömür Orhun, the former Personal Representative of the Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE on Combating Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims, and currently the Advisor and Special Envoy of the Secretary General of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The inclusion of this definition without disclaimer in the official record of an OSCE event (OSCE “Supplementary Human Dimension” meeting in Vienna, 11-12 July 2013) has made it de facto an official OSCE definition:
Islamophobia is a contemporary form of racism and xenophobia motivated by unfounded fear, mistrust, and hatred of Muslims and Islam. Islamophobia is also manifested through intolerance, discrimination, unequal treatment, prejudice, stereotyping, hostility, and adverse public discourse. Differentiating from classical racism and xenophobia, Islamophobia is mainly based on stigmatization of a religion and its followers, and as such, Islamophobia is an affront to the human rights and dignity of Muslims.
The wording of this definition bears a close resemblance to that of an earlier definition of “Islamophobia”, which was also written by Ambassador Orhun and published by the OIC in 2011:
“Islamophobia is a contemporary form of racism and xenophobia motivated by unfounded fear, mistrust and hatred of Muslims and Islam. Islamophobia is also manifested through intolerance, discrimination and adverse public discourse against Muslims and Islam. Differentiating from classical racism and xenophobia, Islamophobia is mainly based on radicalisation of Islam and its followers.”
It is therefore no exaggeration to say that the definition of “Islamophobia” officially recognized by the OSCE is essentially the same as the definition promulgated by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
This is a clear conflict of interest. It is analogous to allowing a government regulatory agency to assign an industrial firm the task of writing the official regulations that define how that same firm is treated by the government. Such governmental practices are considered unethical and corrupt in all Western countries, including the participating states of the OSCE. The same standards recognized by governments should also apply to the OSCE: Organizations with a vested interest in defining a particular term to their own advantage must not be permitted to write the official definition of said term.
Later posts in this series will examine the history of the word “Islamophobia” and analyze the components of the definition used by the OSCE and the OIC.
For links to previous articles about the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, see the OSCE Archives.