(MENAFN - Arab News) The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has stressed the fact that the freedom of expression and opinion cannot be used to denigrate religions under international law.
The organization said the tragic killing of US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens is a loss not only to America, but also to international diplomatic vitality.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Rizwan Sheikh, OIC spokesman and director of cultural affairs, said the recent incidents are a source of deep concern for the organization, as they are for the rest of the world.
"The OIC has for long been concerned about the increasing trend of Islamophobia," said Sheikh.
He described the production of the offensive film that sparked anger in the Muslim world as "deplorable and reprehensible."
"We believe that the posting of its trailer on a website is a deliberate act of incitement, and that the reaction (of Muslims) was the exact thing (the makers had) in mind when making the film," he said.
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms the production of this film and hope the rest of the international community joins us," he added.
Sheikh said the OIC believes in the freedom of expression and opinion, but that freedom cannot be used to denigrate or hurt people's religious sentiments. "This position of the OIC is very well entrenched in international legal instruments," he said.
Sheikh said the right to freedom of opinion and expression is defined in Article 19 of the UN International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, but it is followed by Article 20, which clearly states: "Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law."
"Drafters clearly saw the need to have limits on this freedom, and they put those limits. It's a freedom and a right, but which even in the covenant itself has been subjected to certain limits," he said.
Sheikh explained that interfaith harmony is increasingly important and must figure in the conduct of international relations.
"Religions, as we have seen of late, have definitely entered the realm of politics, particularly with reference to the increasing trend of Islamophobia. We've seen the rise of the far-right movement in Europe using Islamophobia as an instrument for their electoral gains," said Sheikh.
"We condemn the unfortunate production of the offensive film, which resulted in the loss of innocent lives. We strongly condemn the tragic killing of Ambassador Christopher Stevens. He was a senior diplomat with wide experience in the region. It is not a loss for the Americans only, but for the international diplomatic vitality."