DAKAR, Senegal | The Muslim world has created a battle plan to defend its religion from political cartoonists and bigots.
Concerned about what they see as a rise in the defamation of Islam, leaders of the world’s Muslim nations are considering taking legal action against those that slight their religion or its sacred symbols. It was a key issue during a two-day summit that ended Friday in Dakar, Senegal’s capital.
The Muslim leaders are attempting to demand redress from nations such as Denmark, which allowed the publication of cartoons portraying the Prophet Muhammad in 2006 and again last month, to the fury of the Muslim world.
Although the legal measures being considered have not been spelled out, the idea pits many Muslims against principles of freedom of speech enshrined in the constitutions of numerous Western governments.
“I don’t think freedom of expression should mean freedom from blasphemy,” said Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade, the chairman of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference. “There can be no freedom without limits.”
Delegates were given a voluminous report by the OIC that recorded anti-Islamic speech and actions from around the world. The report concludes that Islam is under attack and that a defense must be mounted.
“Muslims are being targeted by a campaign of defamation, denigration, stereotyping, intolerance and discrimination,” charged Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the secretary general of the group.
The report urges the creation of a “legal instrument” to crack down on defamation of Islam. Some delegates point to laws in Europe criminalizing the denial of the Holocaust and other anti-Semitic rhetoric. They also point to articles within various U.N. charters that condemn discrimination based on religion and argue that these should be ramped up.
“In our relation with the Western world, we are going through a difficult time,” Ihsanoglu told the summit’s general assembly. “Islamophobia cannot be dealt with only through cultural activities but (through) a robust political engagement.”