Countering intolerance and discrimination against Muslims purpose of OSCE meeting in Cordoba
CORDOBA, 9 October 2007 - Intolerance, racism and discrimination form threats against security, and countering them is essential to promote a positive climate where all people can live together in harmony, speakers at the OSCE Chairmanship Conference on Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims said during the opening session today.
"Racism and discrimination impoverish and violate our democratic rights, be they against Muslims or against those that hold different beliefs," the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, said at the meeting, held in the Spanish city of Corboba.
"The OSCE contributes towards promoting encounters that help avoid the erosion of democratic legitimacy, plurality and cultural co-existence."
He said intolerance and discrimination against Muslims had long been a concern for the Organization. "It is logical that we avoid the risk of a new racism appearing that will disrupt social relations and damage human rights and our very security."
Amr Moussa, the Secretary General of the Arab League, welcomed the meeting, saying it was important to counter the theory of clash of civilizations, which he said was fueled by the extreme wings on all sides. He called on participants to find ways to ensure that "the spirit of tolerance", which prevails at the two-day meeting and other similar meetings, reaches all levels of society.
"Our dialogue, our spirit of tolerance has not trickled down yet to the street, to the communities, to the clubs, to the little guy on the street anywhere in the Muslim or Christian world," he said.
"We will have to find ways and means in order for this spirit, led by Spain today, to be felt among the masses: that we have to live together, that Islam and Christianity and all other religions, including Judaism, all of them worship God and there are no reasons for confrontation, but reasons for mutual respect and tolerance."
Former Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio, the High Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for the initiative Alliance of Civilizations, said that the Alliance and the OSCE complemented each other in work to combat discrimination against Muslims.
"The greatest single antidote to violence is dialogue, conversation and debate - speaking our fears, listening to the fears of others, sharing vulnerabilities, building room for constructive dissent and deepening mutual understanding and trust," he said.
The OSCE Secretary General, Marc Perrin de Brichambaut, said the Organization acted against intolerance in many ways, including by providing a political forum for dialogue and by helping the 56 participating States implement their OSCE commitments in this field.
"The OSCE sees combating intolerance and discrimination against Muslims, through the promotion of mutual respect and understanding, inter-cultural and religious dialogue, as an integral part of our conflict prevention and crisis management activities," he said.
Sessions at the two-day meeting deal with topics such as how education can help overcome intolerance against Muslims and what can be learned from other communities' work in fighting discrimination.
Participants will also discuss how the OSCE can help its 56 participating States and 11 Partners for Co-operation combat intolerance against Muslims and counter extremist influences.
Encouraging participation in pluralistic societies is one of the priorities set by the 2007 Spanish OSCE Chairmanship.