One the one hand what do you expect from a conference of the OIC, but on the other hand, what sinister bullying crap.

Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference, warned there seemed to be a growing “campaign of hate and discrimination” against Muslims by a small number of individuals and organizations. In a speech to a conference in Kuala Lumpur on improving ties between Muslims and the West, Ihsanoglu praised Western nations for criticizing acts such as the recent release of an anti-Quran film by a Dutch lawmaker, but said more should have been done. “Mere condemnation or distancing from the acts of the perpetrators of Islamophobia will not resolve the issue, as long as they remain free to carry on with their campaign of incitement and provocation on the plea of freedom of expression,” Ihsanoglu said.

Well that’s blunt enough. Mere criticism and condemnation and distancing are not enough, as long as people remain free to criticize Islam. Mere condemnation is not enough: they have to be stopped, they have to be prevented, they have to be made not free to carry on. Criticism of Islam must be made globally universally illegal; only that will ‘resolve the issue.’

On the one hand, criticism is too weak, more must be done; on the other hand, criticism is much too powerful and must be forcibly stopped. Criticism of Islamocritics must be enforced with forcible silencing of Islamocritics, while criticism of Islam must be eliminated altogether. Yeah, that’s fair, also a really good idea, being as how Islam is so perfect and all.

“It requires a strong and determined collective political will to address the challenge,” Ihsanoglu said. “It is now high time for concrete actions to stem the rot before it aggravates (the situation) any further.”

Bully bully bully bully; threaten threaten.

Imam Feisal Rauf sets us all straight.

What we have today is much less a “Clash of Civilizations” than a clash of perceptions. Little about our cultures, religions or ways of life—though these are certainly different—suggests coexistence to be impossible; rather, it is our perception of this impossibility that drives discord…Incorrect perceptions in the West about Muslims need fixing too, including the oft-heard charge that Muslims categorically practice violence and abuse women. As we know, however, Muslim-majority countries are more tolerant and diverse than many in the West suppose.

That’s nice – and probably true, because it’s so vague. Exactly how tolerant and diverse is that? More so than many in the West suppose. Ah! That clears that up. But it’s perhaps just as tolerant and diverse as many others in the West suppose, and a great deal less tolerant and diverse than many still others in the West suppose. There are lots of people in ‘the West’ and they suppose lots of things. But how tolerant and diverse Muslim-majority countries actually are is another question – and the sad truth is that we know damn well a lot of them are not very, and are getting steadily less so. The sad truth is that we are hard-pressed to think of a majority Muslim country that is overall anything we would call really tolerant. Indonesia? Jordan? Morocco? Better than some, but not exactly starry.

The impressive plurality of ethnicities, languages, beliefs and opinions among today’s population of more than 1.2 billion Muslims does more than validate the Prophet’s tradition that “Differences of opinion in my community are a blessing”—it puts to rest the notion that Muslims are a homogenous and insidious group, naturally opposed to dissent from within or without.

Oh that tradition! The one that fits so nicely with dire punishment for apostasy, and the division of the world into Muslims and unbelievers – that tradition. And the issue isn’t whether Muslims are ‘naturally opposed to dissent’; of course they’re not; that’s a red herring; the issue is whether they are trained (by Islam) to be that way. There is considerable evidence that they are, and that it takes a lot of effort and courage to resist.

Issues of perception are key in debunking the sense that cultures are clashing. Lately, it has become clear just how carefully religious scholars, politicians and commentators must choose their language to avoid making the problem worse. To illustrate, the current US Presidential election has seen both John McCain and Barack Obama distance themselves from former spiritual guides—Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who famously blamed the US for the September 11th terrorist attacks and Reverend Rod Parsley, the notorious defamer of Islam. Though both candidates have rightly disavowed such comments, they recognize that more work still needs to be done, and have sent representatives to Kuala Lumpur to help repair the damage to the public’s perception of the Muslim-West divide.

Hmmmm. Okay, but is it only Christian ‘spiritual guides’ who say stupid or vicious things? Do they have a monopoly on hate-mongering? Are there no imams who get a little heated sometimes? Is it really all a matter of ‘the West’ trotting obligingly along to KL to grovel and apologize and promise to do better, while the Organization of the Islamic Conference presents it with a list of ways to crack down harder on ‘Western’ people who fail to admire Islam? Hmm?

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