Wednesday, November 16, 2011

ESW on the OIC and the OSCE

Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff was interviewed today by Jerry Gordon at the New English Review. The primary topics of discussion were the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Some excerpts are below:

The reaction [to Islamic terror attacks] in the West has been to grapple with combating the reality of Islamic terrorism, while avoiding any reference to the underlying totalitarian Jihadist principles masquerading behind the thin veneer of religious practices that passes for Islam.

In place of understanding and action to counter the intolerance of Islamic doctrine, what has eventuated has been a series of dialogues between representatives of the OIC and Western officials. These have occurred at different venues such as the UN Alliance of Civilizations in Madrid, the Council of Europe, the OIC Secretariat in Ankara and more recently, at the Secretariat of the Organization for Security Co-operation in Europe. These dialogues have a singular objective. That is to deny freedom of free speech and the right to criticize a religion, thereby supplanting national constitutions and universal human rights laws and declarations and to further the adoption of Islamic Shariah law. Another of these symposia on blasphemy will occur at the State Department in Washington, DC Bottom, when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosts a three day conference from December 12-15th with representatives of the OIC, EU and concerned NGOs. Secretary Clinton announced in Ankara in July 2011, that the conference would address the implementation of guidelines against religious intolerance adopted in a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council in March, 2011.

Arrayed against this attack on freedom of speech is an intrepid band of European critics who have been brought to trial for their criticism of Islam. Among them are the Hon. Geert Wilders of The Netherlands, Lars Hedegaard of Denmark and Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff of Austria. While Wilders has been acquitted in an Amsterdam District Court of all charges, Hedegaard and Wolff have been convicted in municipal courts in Copenhagen and Vienna for daring to tell the truth about doctrinal Islam. Under prevailing EU laws, Islam has been granted preferential status as a recognized religion and granted protection under statutes against “hate speech.” We have interviewed Hedegaard and Wolff about their respective cases in Denmark and Austria.


For more information about Ms. Wolff’s upcoming appeal trial in Vienna and support for her activities, please consult her website, In Defense of Free Speech.

JG: Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, thank you for consenting to this interview.
ESW: Glad to be back.
JG: What is the OSCE?
ESW: The Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is the largest regional security organization. It puts the political will of its participating states into practice through its field missions. There are 56 states from Europe, Central Asia, and North America who are participating states. The OSCE has a comprehensive approach that encompasses political, military, economic and environmental, as well as, human rights aspects. These are called dimensions. These 56 states span the globe encompassing three continents and more than one billion people. What is important to mention about the human rights dimension is that discussion of human rights had been a long standing taboo in East/West relations and these human rights then became, by virtue of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, a legitimate subject of dialogue. The COSCE was originally called the Conference for Security and Cooperation prior to the establishment of the OSCE. The Organization has been instrumental in keeping the spotlight on human rights.
JG: Who are OSCE participating states?
ESW: OSCE participating states are all of the countries in Europe, Russia, the former Russian Republics, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan etc, Canada and the United States.
JG: Who are the OSCE co-operating partners in the Middle East, Asia and Oceania?
ESW: The co-operating partners in the Middle East are Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia. There are also co-operating partners in Asia which are Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Afghanistan and Mongolia. Australia became a co-operating partner in 2009.
JG: What members of the OIC belong to the OSCE and its cooperating partners?
ESW: The member states of the OIC that are also partners in the OSCE are Turkey, which is a participating state and the co-operating partners as I mentioned before, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, and Afghanistan.
JG: Where is the Secretariat for the OSCE located?
ESW: The main Secretariat for the OSCE is located right here in Vienna in the Vienna Hofburg which used to be the seat of the former Austro-Hungarian empire, i.e., the Emperor himself resided in the Hofburg. The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) has its headquarters in Warsaw, Poland.
JG: What is the OSCE ODIHR?
ESW: The ODIHR is the specialized institution dealing with elections, human rights and democratization, as well as tolerance and non-discrimination. ODIHR has an important role to fulfill in facilitating dialogue among states, governments and very importantly, civil society. Let me also add here that the role of civil society is a very important one especially in the human dimension. One of the most significant features of the human dimension is that it is open to the participation of NGO’s. Civil society has a vital function both in combating human rights violations and as a voice in the debate on such issues. The participation of NGO’s at Human Dimension meetings are on an equal footing with government representatives. This is crucial as it enriches the debate and makes the exchanges more relevant and constructive. The value placed on NGO participation is one of the things that sets apart the Human Dimension from other high level human rights conferences. The NGO’s, from states where civil society is weak and constrained, via the Human Dimension meetings, provide one of the few opportunities where their voices can be heard before an international audience. This is crucial in that it is the only possibility for NGO’s like Pax Europa, Act for America, ICLA and others to make their voices heard. The registration process is an easy one at the ODIHR website, One can simply register to attend these sessions. We need as many supporters as possible. It doesn’t matter whether or not you agree on every single point that we talk about but we need help from other counter-Jihad organizations.
JG: What occurred at the OSCE meeting on October 28th?

ESW: The meeting in Vienna on October 28th was focused on confronting intolerance and discrimination against Muslims in public discourse. This was the third in a series of meetings. The first one held in March, 2011 was on confronting anti-Semitism in public discourse. The second which was held in Rome in October covered intolerance against Christians. What was especially worrisome about this third meeting was that the OSCE and other international institutions are talking about terms that have no legal definition. If there are no legal definitions then what are we actually talking about? Let me give you an example from the agenda that was made available on the website. When ODIHR refers to anti-Muslim prejudices and stereotypes, no example is given. The agenda also asks how it is possible to draw a distinction between acceptable and unacceptable speech? Freedom of speech is an absolute concept. Who decides what is acceptable and unacceptable? Since the OIC was present at this meeting one can only assume that it is Shariah law that draws the distinction between acceptable and unacceptable speech.
JG: Did the OIC send Representatives to that meeting?
ESW: Yes, definitely. The OIC was very heavily represented with both a high ranking Ambassador to the OSCE as well as NGO’s that are definitely linked in support of the OIC. The other representatives were basically the diplomats who represent states that are also members in the OIC. Let me also add regarding that meeting on October 28th that there was a lot of talk about the phenomenon of Islamophobia and how evil it is and that it needs to be combated. In Austria there is definitely no Islamophobia that can be seen in public discourse. Quite the contrary, as the Ministry of Interior actually supports and helps integration. There is a big fund, an integration fund, which has a budget of a couple of million Euros. There are programs called Mentoring for Migrants. There is a Charter of Diversity. There is a State Secretary for Integration who says that it doesn’t matter where a person comes from; rather it is only important what this person can contribute to Austrian society. There are dialogues in Austria. There are intercultural dialogues. There are conferences like, for instance, “Islam in a pluralistic world.” The Secretary General of the OIC had a long talk with the former Austrian Foreign Minister, Plassnik, on the topic of “sharing values and combating intolerance.” The Minister of Foreign Affairs has installed a task force for intercultural and inter-religious dialogue. It is a partner in the UN Alliance of Civilizations and just a few weeks ago the International King Abdullah Center for Dialogue was opened here in Vienna. What more can one do? Let me also add here that for all of the dialogue that has been going on and taking place for the last fifty years or more, nothing has ever come from them. There are no results from these dialogues. We are talking and talking and talking without any results.
JG: Which NGO’s attended the Session of the OSCE Conference on Confronting Intolerance and Discrimination Against Muslims in Public Discourse?
ESW: You had a number of different NGO’s concerned with intolerance against Muslims all over Europe. First and foremost is the Turkish NGO based in France, the Council for Justice, Peace and Equality (COJEP). They work closely together with the OIC. When you have COJEP speaking you actually have the OIC speaking.
JG: What was the Pax Europa position on the OSCE Islamophobia Guidelines at the October 28th Meetings?
ESW: The main position of Pax Europa was that it rejects strongly the notion that criticism of religion, i.e., Islam, constitutes Islamophobia. In addition, Pax Europa does not acknowledge the validity of the premises based on “racism.” Arguments using “racism” employ invalid premises that are empirically untested and have no scientific basis. Pax Europa firmly believes that it cannot be the state’s responsibility to regulate citizen’s opinions and in particular that speaking documentable truth must never be punishable under the law.
JG: What was the purpose of the two-day supplementary session that ended November 11th?
ESW: November 11th focused on prevention of racism, xenophobia and hate crimes through educational and awareness raising initiatives. That in itself was already worrisome to us because if you try to change people’s opinions through educational and awareness raising initiatives the line between education and indoctrination is a very thin one. Even though I raised this topic during the conference itself, I did not get any response. In the agenda one can read that “awareness raising initiatives on racism [and] xenophobia, aim to bring positive and sustainable change to society by promoting universally respected values.” We immediately raised the issue during the plenary session: “what are those values? What are we talking about? Which human rights are we talking about? What is the definition of human rights in the OSCE language?” It was interesting to note that no such definition was given. Pax Europa recommended that the OSCE support the abolition of all hate speech and blasphemy laws in participating states as these laws are not compatible with a free society. Both during the conference on October 28th as well as the one on November 10th and 11th, the necessity for tightening of hate speech and hate crimes laws was stressed. In the opinions of myself and my colleagues who attended the meeting this is indeed a very troublesome development. We believe that the hate crime laws are in place. We have plenty of laws. They just need to be enforced.
JG: Did the same groups of NGO’s and the OIC attend that session as well?
ESW: No, there were different NGOs and OIC members that attended the November 10th and 11th meetings. It was actually very interesting to note that there were very few NGO’s on the list of participants. Either the topic is getting tiresome for the NGO’s or people are just not interested that much anymore. However, this did have a positive impact on us, the counter Jihad groups, because we were able to intervene and speak loudly and more more often.
JG: What positions did you represent on behalf of Pax Europa at the supplementary session?
ESW: Well as usual I asked for clarifications of the term, “extremist speech,” and I also wanted to know who decides what constitutes hate speech.
JG: Is the OSCE Islamophobia Document a furtherance of the Council of Europe Religious Intolerance Guidelines adopted in 2008?
ESW: The answer here is “oh definitely.” The OSCE Document is a practical application of the Council of Europe guidelines. It goes from general to primary and secondary education. Let me give you an example. According to the Council of Europe documents, school textbooks should not present distorted interpretations of religious and cultural history. Now as usual I have two questions. First of all, what happens with the teaching of the two Turkish sieges of Vienna in 1529 and 1683? Number 2, who decides what is considered “distorted” and according to whom? Another example, “stereotypes that present Islamists contradicting fundamental European values must be avoided.” As usual I have two more questions. First, what about the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, vis a vis the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights and Islam? Is the Cairo Declaration perhaps contradictory to fundamental European values and what European values are we talking about? Can we have a definition of these European values? Number 2, what about the responsibility of states to look into the teachings of Islam and its obvious hatred of the “other”? Is this compatible with the Human Dimension of the OSCE? I’m not sure I will get answers to these questions. Nevertheless, I think these questions are absolutely crucial in any dialogue that we want to have.
JG: What is the agenda behind the OIC presence at these OSCE meetings?…

Read the rest at the New English Review.


Anonymous said...

Secretary Clinton announced in Ankara in July 2011, that the conference would address the implementation of guidelines against religious intolerance adopted in a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council in March, 2011.

The above really concerns me and if Obummer gets another term I not only see the end of the 2nd Amendment but also our 1st Amendment rights. Will sites like GofV be illegal someday?
Anestos Canelidis