Consistency and unity are needed to safeguard rights of Muslims across the globe, speakers said at a conference in Istanbul on Wednesday.

“There is inconsistency in our positions and actions as the members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) are not acting in unison,” said Ammar Hijazi, Palestine’s assistant minister for multilateral affairs.

Hijazi was addressing a seminar on human rights violations faced by Muslims, jointly hosted by Turkiye’s justice and foreign ministries and the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) of the OIC.

The Palestinian official decried the decision of some nations to normalize ties with Israel.

However, he stressed that “we seek solutions based on respect, dialogue and harmony,” calling for solidary and support for the Palestinian people.

Yakup Mogul, Turkiye’s deputy justice minister, said there is a “need to stand behind anyone facing discrimination.”

“If we don’t take steps, it would get worse,” he said, referring to occupation of Palestinian lands and Myanmar’s brutal uprooting of Rohingya Muslims.

Calling for tangible steps while responding to Islamophobic incidents in Europe, he said: “We should not allow Europe to become a place that is not peaceful for Muslims.”

To ensure people’s rights are protected, UN systems “need to be more effective” and the OIC also “has to become more effective,” he said.

“As an organization, we need to work together, increase collaboration and use our platform more effectively,” Mogul stressed, adding that Turkiye was ready to “share our knowledge and experience” with other OIC members.

Leadership of Turkiye, Pakistan, Malaysia lauded

Haci Ali Acikgul, chairperson of the OIC’s IPHRC, said the Muslim bloc and its human rights body have remained vocal in “condemning hate-motivated acts against Muslims around the world, from Palestine to Kashmir, Nagorno Karabakh, India, Sri Lanka, France, New Zealand, Central African Republic and Myanmar.”

“We have always highlighted the plight of our Muslim brethren and urged respective governments to protect their human rights,” he said.

Islamophobia, he said, has “transformed into a systematic anti-Muslim rhetoric of right-wing extremists propagated to achieve well-defined political gains.”

Acikgul said the IPHRC has proposed a comprehensive Islamophobia strategy for the OIC, published thematic studies and held seminars to raise awareness, and suggested concrete measures to root out the menace of religious hatred.

“However, given the scale of the challenge, efforts of the OIC and IPHRC alone are not enough. It requires concerted collaborative efforts by states, civil society, intelligentsia and media,” he noted.

Acikgul praised the leadership of the OIC members including Turkiye, Pakistan and Malaysia for their “laudable efforts that provided a sense of direction and required political impetus to the ongoing efforts at the global scale.”

“We support their call for instituting legal safeguards aimed at protecting the sensitivities of all religious groups and galvanizing OIC’s collective efforts to project the true image of Islam and its message of peace and tolerance,” he said.

Acikgul emphasized that the primary responsibility to “protect the human rights of all its subjects’ rests with the state.”

“Rights of minorities, including their right to preserve, protect and practice their sociocultural and religious beliefs, are guaranteed under international human rights law,” he explained.

“States are obliged to utilize all essential tools including necessary legislation, administrative measures and law enforcement to combat all forms of discrimination and violence based on one’s religion.”

Call for solidarity with TRNC

People of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) “are victims of double standards and discrimination at a larger scale,” said Huseyin Isiksal, special adviser to the TRNC president on international relations and diplomacy.

However, he asserted that Turkish Cypriots “will never give up our rights (as) we are not a minority but equal to Greek Cypriots.”

Cyprus has been mired in a decades-long dispute between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, despite a series of diplomatic efforts by the UN to achieve a comprehensive settlement.

Ethnic attacks starting in the early 1960s forced Turkish Cypriots to withdraw into enclaves for their safety.

In 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup aimed at Greece’s annexation led to Turkiye’s military intervention as a guarantor power to protect Turkish Cypriots from persecution and violence. As a result, the TRNC was founded in 1983.

It has seen an on-and-off peace process in recent years, including a failed 2017 initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Turkiye, Greece, and the UK.

The Greek Cypriot administration entered the EU in 2004, the same year Greek Cypriots thwarted the UN’s Annan plan to end the longstanding dispute.

Isiksal said the TRNC has an embassy in Turkiye and representatives in more than 20 countries.

“International embargos and isolation must come to an end,” he said, referring to restrictions on international trade with the TRNC.

“Our airports and ports have all the facilities to manage international trade, and we are expecting concrete deeds from the Muslim world, not only in the form of words but also in action,” he said.

Isiksal suggested starting direct trade and flights, besides tourism and student exchanges, between Muslim nations and the TRNC.

“Why not to start with full membership of the TRNC in the OIC?” he said.

“Our struggle is against those who try to erase ‘Muslimness’ and ‘Turkishness’ from our island. Hopefully, you will not leave us alone.”

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