UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Muslim nations must collectively resist growing Islamophobia in the US and Europe, the head of the world’s largest organization of Islamic countries told ministers from the 57 member nations gathered here this week.
Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu urged members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference to work with Western leaders to dispel misconceptions about their faith. They met on the edge of the U.N. General Assembly.
Ihsanoglu told The Associated Press on Saturday that he would be taking this message on the road next week to Chicago, where the OIC will host a major conference on Islam and Muslims in America at the American Islamic College.
Education, he said, is key in helping the West truly understand Islam.
He said his new book, “The Islamic World in the New Century: The Organization of the Islamic Conference, 1969-2009,” includes a whole chapter on the danger of growing Islamophobia in the West.
Islam has recently been under attack in America, especially with a controversy over a proposed Islamic center near the World Trade Center sites and threats by groups to burn the Quran in protest.
“The Muslim world is going through an unprecedented difficult and trying time,” Ihsanoglu told the ministers during their annual meeting on Friday. “We are facing daunting challenges and severe hardships. Islam and Muslims are under serious attack, and Islamophobia is growing and becoming more rampant and dangerous by the day.”
He said a “pandemic of Islam vilification” is sweeping through some parts of Europe and the United States, increasing misperceptions about Islam and eroding Muslims’ human rights.
“We need an all inclusive effort of OIC member states to stem this menace,” Ihsanoglu told the ministers. “That is why I firmly believe that this question of Islamophobia should figure prominently on the agenda of all OIC member states whenever they deal with their Western counterparts.”
Ihsanoglu, who is from Turkey, has headed the OIC since 2005. The group is seen as a moderate, collective voice for Islam.
“The OIC is a strategic and crucial partner of the United Nations and plays a significant role in helping to resolve a wide range of issues facing the world community,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement to the group when it met on Friday.
Member states reflect the reach of Islam across the Middle East, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, and include Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Morocco, Afghanistan, Syria, Chad, Senegal, Niger, Sudan, Guyana and Surinam.