President of the Parliamentary
Assembly of the Council of Europe
Avenue de l’Europe
67075 Strasbourg Cedex
Berlin, 22nd of March 2014
Dear Madam President Brasseur,
On behalf of the “Islamische Gemeinschaft deutschsprachiger Muslime & Freunde des Islam Berlin e.V.” (Islam Community of German Speaking Muslims & Friends of the Islam e.V.) I would like to express my strong concern as regards the report drafted by Mr Rudy Salles “The protection of minors against excesses of sects”, and the resolution and recommendation that will be voted upon the 10th of April in Strasbourg, during the plenary session of the Assembly. We think that this report does not reflects the core principles of the Council of Europe and should be sent back to Committee for further research and work in adequacy with human rights international law.
We think that protecting children from any excess is valuable and should be encouraged, in every religious community, but also in any place in Europe and abroad.
Unfortunately this report is obviously not aimed at protecting children, but only at targeting religious minorities in Europe, without bringing any evidence that there would be more excesses toward children within religious minorities than within any other group, including mainstream religions.
It is also obvious that the effect of the resolution, if voted and applied, would be to exalt all the discrimination that occur against religious minorities in Europe, and to deny the right of parents to ensure education and teaching of their children in conformity with their own convictions, as soon as these parents are belonging to religious communities labeled as “sects”. This is not based on the best interest of the child, but only on religious affiliation matters.
The word “sect” has no legal definition, as it is pointed out in the report, and should not be used as there is already a great number of international human rights bodies, including the Council of Europe itself, that have analyzed that the use of this word is discriminatory and not convenient for a serious piece of work.
The report is very biased and its primary sources are the internationally disparaged MIVILUDES and the FECRIS. FECRIS has engaged since long time in spreading rumours and hate speech against religious beliefs throughout Europe, associating sometimes with mainstream religions to target minorities.
Vice President of FECRIS, Mr. Alexander Dvorkin, recently gave lectures on Islam with several hostile and incorrect statements about the Koran and the prophet Mohammad. He is a Russian citizen who is actively involved with the Russian Orthodox Church. In March 1992, he was hired by the Department for Religious Education and Catechesis of the Moscow Patriarchate to address the problem of “sects” surging in Russia. He created and is the Director of FECRIS’ member association in Russia, the St. Irenaeus of Lyons Religious Studies Research Centre, founded in 1993 with the blessing of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II to deal with the issue of new religious movements, sects and cults.
Feeling empowered to defend the exclusive legitimacy of the mainstream religion in Russia, the Orthodox Church, and supported by his position at the head of FECRIS, Mr. Dvorkin has been actively fighting and spreading hate speech against the various minority religions present in Russia.
In the last years the discussion about the Muslims in Europe has increased a lot with politicians urging dialogue and Integration on this subject and opposing voices that label Muslims as extremists, as kind of sects, violating human rights - very similar as taken up in the resolution, thus I fear that this Resolution will be taken up by these anti Muslim Forces to fuel the hate against religious minorities and will Sabotage exactly what is asked for by many politicians to Support Dialogue and Integration.
As a rep of the Muslims in Germany I urgently ask you to consider this."
The resolution and the recommendation, as well as the report itself, contains many other violations of basic human rights that would be too long to cover in that letter. Religious freedom is a fundamental right which should not be conflict with the best interest of children. When such a discriminatory approach is made, as it is in France and in some other countries, by derogatorily label some religious minorities as “sects”, the best interests of the child, as well as the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief of children and parents, are strongly jeopardized.
This is why we would like to respectfully ask this report be sent back to the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.
Amir Dr. h.c. Mohammed Herzog
The original letter:
Dr hc M Herzog letter Salles report.pdf