OSCE and Organization of the Islamic Conference need to work together to battle Islamophobia, says OIC leader

Co-ordinated efforts are needed to battle the rise of Islamophobia, intolerance and discrimination against Muslims, the Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, told the OSCE Permanent Council.

"The goals and objectives of the OIC are not much different from those of the OSCE, as both our organizations are devoted to the cause of international peace and security," he said.

Strengthening the two organizations' already existing co-operation would be beneficial, Ihsanoglu said, adding that Kazakhstan, which holds the 2010 OSCE Chairmanship and will chair the OIC in 2011, could help promote such co-operation.

A rise of hatred and intolerance was "among the gravest threats to stability and peace and a serious challenge to security", he said.

He also drew attention to the rise of Islamophobia.

"We cannot ignore the fact that religion has been drawn into the agenda of international relations by the extremist elements who are active in creating tensions and who threaten stability, harmony and even peace through provocation and incitement on religious grounds," he said.

He urged the OSCE to prioritize the "looming threat to stability, harmony and security" posed by intolerance and extremism and welcomed plans to address intolerance and discrimination against Muslims during an OSCE High-Level Conference on Tolerance and Non-discrimination, to be held in June in Astana.

"It is high time for the OSCE and OIC to put together tangible and result-oriented efforts to motivate the people, starting with those at the grassroots, to reject the extremists," he said, adding that this work should aim to develop "a culture of respect and tolerance for the whole range of civil and political, as well as economic, social and cultural rights of people of all beliefs and backgrounds."

The Permanent Council is one of the OSCE's main decision-making bodies. It meets weekly in Vienna to discuss developments in the OSCE area and to make appropriate decisions.