European Interreligious Forum For Religious Freedom

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Strasbourg, 14/07/2014


EMISCO : Press Release on Gaza situation
Normally, EMISCO - European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion does not take sides in territorial conflicts, condemn or support any given country nor do we issue statements of intent in political disputes outside Europe.
 
We work for the socio-economic, cultural and religions rights of the Muslim communities as well as the betterment of relations among various ethnic and religious groups who live in Europe.
 
But when a far away conflict in the Middle East reaches European shores and causes disharmony, violence – verbal and physical – and disturbs peaceful living, we cannot stay silent.
 
EMISCO is very worried that the increased violence, indiscriminate killings and labelling of a territorial conflict, as a religious issue will have dire consequences for Muslim and Jewish communities in Europe.
 
The present violent situation in Gaza and Israel has already resulted in anti-Semitic and Islamophobic incidents in some parts of Europe and on Social media, hefty debates are raging between native Europeans, ethnic and religious minorities with very harsh tone and discomforting rhetoric. An escalating conflict in the Middle East would surely make our living together in peace, even harder than before.
 
That is why, EMISCO strongly urges EU, Council of Europe, OSCE and the international community through UN, to not wait too long but stop this madness now.
 
We also request the European mainstream media, not to take sides with any party in the conflict but instead report the events impartially and professionally so that public views are not further prejudiced or enraged.
 
The NGOs and political leadership in Europe should also refrain from xenophobic statements and taking one-sided positions.
 
Finally, while we are aware of the anger and frustrations, Muslim and Jewish brothers and sisters must be feeling, we appeal to them to be extra cautious in venting their anger and not add to the problem while expressing their views.
 
In this time of tremendous suffering and fear, from Jerusalem to Gaza, and from Hebron to Be’er Sheva, all Israelis and Palestinians deserve security, justice, and equality and European Muslim and Jewish communities need to support all the efforts to halt the violence.
 

Rédigé par EMISCO le Tuesday, July 15th 2014 | Comments (0)

Vice-chair of EIFRF elected as a United Religions Initiative trustee for Europe
In May 2014, Petar Gramatikov, Vice-Chair of EIFRF, has been elected as a United Religions Initiative trustee for Europe.

In addition to his functions in EIFRF, Petar is a hierodeacon of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, as well a Doctor (Didiaskalos) of the Universal Orthodox Church. He is currently the Chief Expert in religious questions in the municipality of Plovdiv, as well as Vice President of the Eastern European Forum for Dialogue-Bridges NGO. He has been working for years in the field of human rights, defending the traditional view of Orthodox church in terms of respect for all beliefs, beside all theological conceptions.

When elected, Mr Gramatikov declared: “I would like to stress in the work of the Global Council on the great need for an imperative concern for nature: There is an urgent need to promote an ethic of social responsibility on the management of natural resources and care for creation, something we called ‘stewardship for creation’.” 

"The Cooperation Circles have entrusted the newly elected Global Council Trustees with the sacred responsibility of URI’s global governance and ask them to work for the good of the whole of URI,”
says The Rev. Victor H. Kazanjian (see here), Jr.  “URI is honored that these new Trustees are willing to give of their time to help further the goals of promoting enduring daily interfaith cooperation, ending religiously motivated violence and creating cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings. We feel particularly blessed to have these newly elected Global Council Trustees as partners in our movement’s work.”

To know more about URI : http://www.uri.org/

Rédigé par EIFRF le Thursday, July 10th 2014 | Comments (2)

OSCE meeting discussed freedom of expression in VIENNA, from 3-4 July 2014
EMISCO

Representatives from the 57 OSCE participating States, civil society and international organizations met in Vienna on Thursday the 3rd July 2014 for a two-day conference on the promotion of freedom of expression.

The Swiss OSCE Chairmanship, the Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media (RFoM) and the OSCE Office jointly organized this meeting with ODIHR – Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. The meeting not only provided an opportunity to discuss the rights, responsibilities and OSCE commitments with regards to freedom of expression but also civil society and other international organizations shared experiences on freedom of expression, as well as on ways and means to safeguard and promote this universal human right.

Keynote speaker Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said obstacles to the rights of free expression and free opinion undermine the development and safeguarding of all other fundamental rights.

"The freedoms of opinion and expression are intertwined, together with the right of access to information. They are enabling rights – rights that empower individuals to argue for their due enjoyment of all other rights, from fair trials and free elections to decent living conditions. Conversely, obstacles to these freedoms undermine all other rights, including civil, cultural, economic, social and political rights and the right to development," Pillay said.

EMISCO has been partner of OSCE/ ODIHR for many years. In our cooperation with this important organization, we have arranged many events on European level such as training program for Muslim NGOs against hate crime, side events in human dimension implementation meetings and OSCE officials have been invited as guest speakers in our conferences in European Parliament, Council of Europe, UNESCO and United Nations. We have also regularly taken part and contributed during HDIM in Warsaw.

Our latest cooperation was to arrange a very well attended roundtable on the Topic of "How to combat cyber hate crimes while respecting freedom of expression: the challenge of countering anti-Muslim hatred on the Internet". Mrs Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE representative on Freedom of Expression was the main speaker, while Dr. Omar Al-Rawi, member of the Vienna Parliament, represented the Mayor of Vienna.

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, said that a key obstacle to fully embrace and implement OSCE commitments on freedom of expression is the lack of political will.

“The question is, if OSCE participating States have achieved progress since this organization was founded in 1975 to ensure that we can speak our minds freely, without fear or repercussions,” Mijatović said. “Some significant steps have been taken, but I believe that we all agree on the fact that in many of the participating States we are light years away from living in societies where these noble notions are part of people’s everyday lives. This must change.”
 
EMISCO Secretary Bashy Quraishy welcomed the delegates and explained that the organisation does not want to challenge the right to Freedom of Expression, which is necessary for the promotion of Fundamental Rights, but there was a clear need to point out how Muslim communities are constantly harassed, demonized and made into an enemy in many European countries specially in the western Europe. The same journalists who want to have freedom of expression as their monopoly often set this Islamophobic trend in motion. At the roundtable Muslim NGOs discussed in details those issues, which are usually talked about among 44 million Muslims in Europe.

The Round Table was also addressed by Ayşe ELKILIÇ, Lawyer and Vice-President of Thinkout - Belgium, Julie PASCOET, Policy Officer - ENAR . Engin KARAHAN from IGMG - Germany and Carla Amina BAGHAJATI, spokeperson of the Islamic Community in Austria.

In the afternoon plenary session on the Right of Freedom of Expression, EMISCO and its partner organizations from Europe took active part in bringing civil society concerns and worries about the increasing Islamophobic rhetoric and how Freedom of Expression is grossly exploited by mainstream and social media, political establishment and even academics to demonize Muslim communities in the worst possible way.

EMISCO representatives assured the meeting that the organisation supports United Nation and OSCE's position that freedom of expression is a necessary condition for the realization of the principles of transparency and accountability that are, in turn, essential for the promotion and protection of human rights. We presented some of the important conclusions from EMISCO’s Round Table as recommendation to OSCE's leadership.
 
We recommend that OSCE should henceforth:

1. Replace the official term intolerance against Muslims to islamophobia, which is used and accepted by many intergovernmental organizations like UN, Council of Europe, OIC and EU.

2. Make a clear distinction between freedom of expression for the common person as well as journalistic community to criticize the state authorities, decision-makers and power elite in any country and an open propaganda directed towards powerless ethnic and religious minorities, especially Muslim communities by the mainstream and social media.

3. Raise awareness among the journalistic community that while they correctly ask for the protection of their rights, journalists should make sure that they do not trample on the rights of Muslim communities.

4. Legislative framework, which many OSCE participant countries have put in place to protect Jewish and LGBT communities against hate speech and which we whole -heartedly support - should be extended to protect Muslim communities.

5. OSCE must be aware that this constant Islamophobic discourse has already poisoned mutual integration in many societies in the West of Vienna. To counter this trend, Council of Europe has nominated 21st September as Day against Islamophobia. To highlight this form of prejudice, OSCE could join the Council of Europe to strengthen this initiative.

EMISCO, ThinkOut, IGMG, Western Thrace Minority University Graduates Association, Islamic Community in Austria, Austrian Muslim Initiative and ABTTF have endorsed this statement

Rédigé par EMISCO le Thursday, July 10th 2014 | Comments (1)

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