(CNSNews.com) – The organization representing the world’s Islamic nations on Wednesday condemned the attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt, saying it had consistently warned that “the abuse of freedom of expression” in a way that “hurt[s] the religious sentiments of Muslims” could have grave consequences.
Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu definitively linked Tuesday’s violence to Muslim anger over an amateur satirical movie critical of the prophet Mohammed, despite indications that radical elements may have used protests against the film as a cover to launch an armed assault.
According to an OIC statement, Ihsanoglu “said the violence that had emanated from emotions aroused by a production of a film had hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims. The two incidents demonstrated serious repercussions of abuse of freedom of expression that OIC had consistently been warning against.”
On Monday a spokesman for the bloc of 56 Muslim states deplored the Mohammed movie – which Egyptian media had been reporting on for several days – calling its production “an act of incitement of inter-communal hatred.”
In Wednesday’s statement, Ihsanoglu condemned the killing of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other American diplomats in Benghazi, saying he was “shocked by the reprehensible act which could not be condoned on any grounds.”
He also “expressed grave concern” about Tuesday’s incident in Cairo. Some protestors there breached the embassy compound walls, destroyed an American flag and hoisted a black banner carrying the Islamic declaration of faith, “There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet.”
“The OIC secretary-general added that while the film was a deplorable act of incitement, resorting to violence resulting in loss of innocent lives could not be condoned,” the statement said. Ihsanoglu called for restraint and said law enforcement authorities should take all necessary measures to bring the situation under control.
“He added that the international community could not be held hostage to the acts of extremists on either side,” it said. “The secretary-general believed that the solution could only be found by addressing the issues pertaining to the freedom of religion and freedom of expression through structured international engagement.”
Ihsanoglu said avenues for such engagement were provided for by a resolution passed by the U.N. Human Rights Council last year – an OIC initiative co-sponsored by the Obama administration – condemning the stereotyping or stigmatization of people based on their religion.
In a departure from previous OIC initiatives aimed at outlawing what it calls “religious defamation,” the resolution known as 16/18 did not call for legal proscriptions, except in the specific case of religion-based “incitement to imminent violence.”
Several meetings have been held since then to discuss ways to “implement” resolution 16/18, including one hosted by the State Department in Washington last December.
Another such meeting, in Istanbul in July last year, was co-hosted by Ihsanoglu and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She told the gathering effective ways to counter speech that upset religious adherents would include interfaith education, antidiscrimination laws, and the use of “some old-fashioned techniques of peer pressure and shaming.”
The OIC’s attempt to use the tragedy to further its longstanding campaign against “religious defamation” is in keeping with its past record.