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Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu: Combating Islamophobia

The secretary general of the OIC discusses discrimination, freedom of expression and religious persecution in the West.

Last Modified: 01 Jun 2013 09:40
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Immigrants in Sweden, many of them Muslims, have been rioting for several nights, saying they feel excluded from society. This quickly caused a rise in voices heard calling for more restrictions on immigration.

We feel very proud of  ... the human rights permanent commission in OIC. [This] commission is mandated to promote the better understanding of human rights, to advocate ... and to defend human rights in our country and outside. We consider this as a conduit for better understanding, better communication between the Muslim world and the rest.

Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)

Last week in the UK, a Muslim convert killed a British soldier on a London street, and this was quickly followed by several attacks on mosques in the country.

When events such as these take place, and tensions rise, is there anyone around who speaks on behalf of all Muslims? One man says he does.

Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu is the secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Headquartered in Saudi Arabia and funded by Islamic nations across the world, the OIC is the second largest inter-governmental organisation after the United Nations and has membership of 57 states spread over four continents.

The OIC has ramped up its public relations efforts in the last year or so, often issuing press releases when violent events take place. For example, it condemned the recent attack on the French embassy in Tripoli; called for the release of abducted Christian archbishops in Syria; and, after the attack at the Boston Marathon, Ihsanoglu expressed, "satisfaction" when the police apprehended the suspects, but he also urged the US authorities to ensure the safety of Muslims from being targeted in response.

Sceptics of the OIC say the organisation is merely a vehicle for empty meetings and rhetoric, but it has had some notable successes. It managed to push through a UN human rights resolution against religious discrimination, and it found a helpful partner in this job: Hillary Clinton, when she was US Secretary of State.

For the secretary general of OIC, a man with personal roots in Turkey, his number one job at the moment is combating what he calls Islamophobia in the West.

On this episode of Talk to Al Jazeera, Jane Dutton sat down with Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu to discuss some hot topics in Europe at present: including discrimination, freedom of expression and religious persecution.

Talk to Al Jazeera can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0430; Sunday: 0830, 1930; and Monday: 1430.  

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