US to Send Envoy to Islamic Bloc [Excerpts]
The United States for the first time will send an envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, a 56-nation bloc whose conduct has frequently drawn criticism.
President Bush announced the decision during a visit to the Islamic Center, a mosque and cultural center on embassy row in northwest Washington.
"Our special envoy will listen to and learn from representatives from Muslim states, and will share with them America's views and values," Bush said during a ceremony marking the center's 50th anniversary.
The announcement drew praise from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an advocacy group that has criticized America's pro-Israeli policy.
CAIR Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, who was at the event in Washington D.C., said in a statement, "we welcome the appointment of a special envoy to the OIC as recognition that positive and respectful dialogue is the best way to build bridges of understanding between our nation and the Muslim world."
With a secretariat in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the OIC comprises 57 members - 56 nations and "Palestine." It is the third-largest political bloc in the world, after the United Nations and the Non-Aligned Movement. Its member states are scattered across the Middle East, Africa and Asia, along with one member each in Europe (Albania) and South America (Guyana).
The OIC was established in 1969 as a body focused on promoting "solidarity" among Islamic states, but over the decades it has been better known for bickering, and at times even open conflict, among its members.
In the months following 9/11, the OIC sought to reassert its authority, meeting for three days in Malaysia in early 2002 in a bid to dissociate Islam from terrorism. An attempt to define terrorism failed, but the participants did make it clear in the process that Palestinian actions against Israel could not be called terrorism.
The meeting ended with a statement that said, "We reject any attempt to link terrorism to the struggle of the Palestinian people in the exercise of their inalienable right to establish their independent state with Al-Quds Al-Sharif [Jerusalem] as its capital."
In the aftermath of the international furor over the publication of cartoons depicting Mohammed, the OIC spearheaded a drive to have the defamation of religion and "prophets" outlawed, and called on the U.N.'s new Human Rights Council to take action against the phenomenon.
The OIC at the time also said it was considering setting up a body to promote human rights in member states "in accordance with the provisions of the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam."
The 1990 Cairo Declaration, signed by all OIC member-states, asserts that all human rights and freedoms must be subjected to shari'a (Islamic law).
Freedom of speech is allowed, but "everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the shari'a," it states.
[TBC: In short, the OIC is a group designed to impose Islam on the world.]