approach of the first official session of the Independent Permanent Human
Rights Commission (IPHRC) in Jakarta, Indonesia on Feb. 20, the Organization of
Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is embarking on a path replete with challenges, not
the least of which is promoting and protecting human rights in the Muslim
only appropriate that a year marked by popular uprising in different parts of
the Muslim world against injustice, corruption and abuse of power should
conclude with the landmark establishment of a human rights commission duly
equipped with a progressive vision and mandate.
announcement of establishing the OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights
Commission at the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers (ICFM) in Astana,
Kazakhstan in June 2011 is a milestone achievement that is part of a process
for restructuring the OIC, which began in 2005 at the Extraordinary Summit in
historical significance of establishing the commission is derived not only from
the timing but also from the foresight and commitment of the member states
reflected in the decision. The statute of the commission entered into force
within the considerably short time of three years after it was accorded the
statutory status by the new OIC charter adopted in Senegal in 2008.
establishment of the Commission is the start of a new journey for reform in the
Muslim world, and it will most likely be a long and strenuous journey.
One of the
main factors that would contribute to the success of the IPHRC is proving its
credibility in the shortest time. This shall be a real and serious test for
joint Islamic action in one of its most sensitive and significant aspects. This
shall also reflect the seriousness of the IPHRC and its abidance by the
principles of the OIC Ten-Year Program of Action (TYPOA) adopted in the Makkah
Summit in 2005 and the spirit of the new OIC Charter.
commission is launching its activities in a highly charged period of rising
Islamophobia. In some sections of Western mind and media there are deep-seated
misperceptions — due, in large measure, to either ignorance or deliberate
misrepresentation — regarding incompatibility between Islam and human rights.
We have to acknowledge that human rights violations occur in the Muslim world
as in other parts of the world. It would, however, be a mistake to associate or
confuse such violations with Islam. Islam was the first religion in the world
that called for full equality among people regardless of their race, language,
ethnic origin, social status, etc. It emphasized and enforced the concept of
“rights” long before it acquired currency in modern existence.
It is in
this backdrop that the 18-member commission — four of whom are women — is faced
with an onerous task. However, the commission gains its confidence from the
realization for the need to serve the Ummah and all humanity toward peace,
harmony and coexistence. Therefore, one of its primary roles is to complement
the efforts and contributions of other international organizations in this area
and interact positively with them.
commission will also turn a critical eye inward, of introspection, as a unique
instrument for self-reform that helps the Ummah rectify any defects. It is
meant to adopt a corrective rather than a value-judgmental approach, build
capacities and provide solutions for the OIC member states in the area of human
rights in a gradual and sustainable manner. Naturally, the nascent IPHRC is not
expected to perform its duties in an optimal manner immediately after its
establishment or do everything at the same time; so the need for prioritization
is essential. It would take an incremental and progressive approach.
hope that the commission will have the support, cooperation and encouragement
it needs and deserves from the member states as well as the international
community to perform its functions for the benefit of the member states and the
world at large.
the establishment of the IPHRC is stemmed from a vision that takes into account
the inevitability of progress. It thus counters those outdated concepts that
confine the OIC to a limited frame of action ignoring the broader
potentialities that should be invested in to achieve the aspirations of the
billion and a half Muslims worldwide.
Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu is the
secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Source: Arab News