By Arab News
The 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) yesterday announced its plan to establish a satellite channel and promote investment in the media to fight Islamophobia and enhance exchange of information among the member states.
“We have a number of important proposals to strengthen Islamic media activities. They including the launch of an OIC satellite channel,” OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu told a conference of information ministers from the Islamic world.
The OIC chief also called on Muslim businessmen and women to finance the new channel as well as to invest in major media organizations that are already successfully making substantial profits in order to “exchange information and news of the Islamic world and project the true picture of Islam.”
Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondinba opened the two-day conference titled “Session of Information Technologies in the Service of Peace and Development.” Ihsanoglu also announced a three-year media plan focusing on the African continent.
Riyad bin Kamal Najm, deputy information minister for media affairs, is leading the Kingdom’s delegation to the conference. He said the OIC media should highlight Islamic issues, confront anti-Islamic stereotypes and work for the success of Islamic causes.
Najm backed the new proposals to strengthen the Islamic media including the OIC channel. He said Saudi Arabia is ready to host the first forum for broadcasting regulators in Jeddah in June.
Twelve draft resolutions have been presented to the ministers for discussion and potential adoption. They include the restructuring of the International Islamic News Agency (IINA) and the Islamic Broadcasting Union (IBU), formation of an OIC Journalists Forum and opening of OIC media offices in different parts of the world.
The OIC, which is the second largest international organization after the UN, has set out a strategy to combat what it calls “rising intolerance against Islam and Muslims in the West.”
One resolution says negative news in some Western media has resulted in negative stereotyping and racial discrimination and victimization directed against Muslims. Stressing that the Islamic faith is based on the core values of peace, tolerance, moderation and peaceful coexistence with all other religions and faiths, the OIC labeled the emergence of Islamophobia as a “contemporary form of racism and xenophobia motivated by unfounded fear, mistrust and hatred of Muslims and Islam.” It also added that Islamophobia manifested itself “through intolerance, discrimination, hostility and adverse public discourse.”
The OIC also dismissed suggestions that Islamophobia is equal to classical racism and xenophobia, saying that Islamophobia is mainly based on stigmatization of a religion and its followers. “As such, Islamophobia is an affront to the human rights and dignity of Muslims,” the resolution pointed out.
The OIC has been working on a comprehensive plan to combat prejudice against Islam and Muslim communities with a view to developing campaigns to foster respect for cultural and religious pluralism and diversity, while raising awareness of the positive contributions of Muslims to promote tolerance and understanding.
The Gabon conference has short, medium and long-term goals for putting in place an action plan to fight Islamophobia. It asks member states to create funding for media campaigns to counter intolerance against Islam and discourage using expressions such as “Islamic” fascists or “Islamic” extremists for criminal terrorists. For the medium term, the resolution asks member states to implement media literacy programs in schools to combat misperceptions, prejudices and hate speech. It aims to utilize success stories in the Muslim world “as a means to show that the interests of Muslims are similar to the rest of the world when it comes to democracy, good governance and human rights.”
The OIC plans to create awards for excellence in unbiased journalism, reporting, photography and publishing. It sets up scholarship programs for Westerners to study in the Muslim world and encourage reporter-exchange programs between the Muslim world and the West in order to disseminate this information throughout media outlets.