- President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal has denounced the “increasing wave of Islamophobia fuelled and sustained by evil spirited people who are experts in falsification of history.”
Mr Wade was addressing the heads of state summit of the Organisation of Islamic Conference OIC) summit in the capital Dakar.
OIC that represents over 1.3 billion Muslims across the world brings together participants from 57 countries.
President Wade said Islamophobia has made Muslims’ freedom of worship a concern, despite the increasing tolerance of Islam in Europe as evidenced by the construction of several mosques.
Senegalese leader, who was elected the new Chairman of OIC, called for dialogue and tolerance from the non-Muslim world.
The summit should have taken place in 2006, but it was pushed forward to allow the modernisation of Dakar to complete. It looked into negative views about Islam, solidarity with poor Muslim nations and how to support Palestinians, among other issues.
Mr Wade was optimistic of a successful conference and thanked all Muslims for their prayers. He believed in reforming the organisation, saying the rekindling of the Islamic Ummah [community] in the 21st century will be done with a revitalized organisation, endowed with institutional capacities, human and financial resources equal to our ambitions.
As the new OIC Chairman, President Wade said his priority would be the establishment of an internationally recognised Palestinian state within safe borders as well as foster peace between Palestine and Israel. He said expressed the Muslim organisation's resolve to achieve a just and lasting peace between the two countries.
Though Wade appealed to Palestinians and Israelis to immediately halt violence and enter into a peace deal, he however stressed the importance of respecting the fundamental human rights of Palestinian people.
He said Muslims are confronted with primary challenges of continuing environmental degradation caused by climate change.
Wade invited Arabs to invest in all African countries because the advent of democracy means investments in the continent are no longer at risk. He described Africa as the continent of the future with a projected consumer population of over 1.7 billion by 2050.
He called on the conference to put mobilise huge resources to combat poverty and finance development projects.
Ekeleddin Ihsanoglu, the OIC Secretary General, accused Israel of fabricating excessive crises to stall peace process in the Gaza Strip, which was why the situation in Palestine remains deplorable.
He said "in our relations with the western world, we are going through difficult times. We strongly feel that our religion, its sacred symbols, and on both community and individual levels, Muslims are being targeted by a campaign of defamation, denigration, stereotyping, intolerance and discrimination."
Ihsanoglu cited several reasons that contributed to the increasing wave of Islamophobia. These include ignorance about Islam, calculated animosity pedalled by a minority in the West and "our failure to disseminate the true values of Islam."
"We are confronted by hatred and bigotry of radical marginal groups of people who believe that it is only through insulting Muslims and their religious symbols that they can demonstrate their commitment to freedom of speech."
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