In front of a standing-room-only crowd at the Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture in Istanbul, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton joined OIC Secretary General Ihsanoglu to co-chair a ministerial level meeting to advance the goal of promoting religious tolerance and freedom of expression across the globe.
“Together we have begun to overcome the false divide that pits religious sensitivities against freedom of expression and we are pursuing a new approach,” Secretary Clinton said. “These are fundamental freedoms that belong to all people in all places and they are certainly essential to democracy.”
Secretary Clinton and OIC Secretary General Ihsanoglu were joined by a host of senior government officials from around the world, including EU High Representative Catherine Ashton. Inside the red-paneled library where the meeting took place, Secretary Clinton told the assembled officials that United States will invite relevant experts from around the world to the first of what is slated to be a series of meetings to discuss best practices, exchange ideas, and keep all parties moving forward beyond the polarizing debates of the past.
This new approach was defined in March at the UN Human Rights Council, when that body passed Resolution 16/18. This landmark resolution, passed by consensus, established a new approach to combating religious intolerance that rejects prohibitions on speech and religious freedom and instead focuses on positive actions, including education, awareness building, government outreach, service projects, and dialogue.
As the Secretary noted at the time, adoption of Resolution 16/18 represented a desire on the part of the international community to move away from the divisive debate over “defamation of religions,” and away from the recent history of violence and controversy surrounding such issues as the Danish cartoons, minaret bans and prohibitions on religious dress, Koran burnings, and other explosive controversies.
You can Secretary Clinton's complete remarks from the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) High-Level Meeting on Combating Religious Intolerance here.