At a high-ranking meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on December 9 and 10, 2010 in the Hofburg in Vienna, the OSCE Supplementary Human Dimension Implementation Meeting on Freedom of Religion or Belief, which addressed the topic of religious freedom within the broader framework of human rights consultations, a hushed up commotion took place.
Since Kazakhstan chaired the OSCE, the first keynote speaker was Ms. Iman Valeriya Porokhova, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a leading Russian Muslim (see http://koran-valeria.narod.ru/). The professionally recognized and personally very congenial lady called for peaceful association between religions (albeit only mentioning Islam, Christianity, and Judaism and not one of the represented minority religions, much less secular world views). She held this is possible because the universal principles of the Koran and the Sharia are supported by the Bible and the Torah. She actually mentioned very little on the topic of human rights or the human right to religious freedom.
The longer she spoke, the more her contribution became a sermon with many quotes from the Koran. According to Porokhova, Europe is moving towards its demise because it is no longer following God’s word as found in the Koran, Bible, and Torah. Rather, it is making its own laws. I believe I would have long been cut off by this point.
The climax was reached when she introduced the elimination of the death penalty as a difference between Islam and Europe. It was against the will of God, as it is set down in the holy books, that Europe abolished the death penalty. If this is not reversed, there can be no blessing upon Europe. It has to do with listening to God’s word or giving room to human rebellion. In the process, the speaker blatantly threatened Europe. Apart from that, she at the same time subordinated all other religions to Islam without qualification.
All of the 200 present (ambassadors, religious representatives, experts) remained nobly silent. Also the Muslims present, which in part represent much more liberal approaches, remained silent. Many of the representatives of the media spoke with me about this after the fact, but none reported on it.
I asked myself: What if the Apostolic Nuncio of the Holy See from the UN in Geneva, Msgr. Silvano M. Tomasi, who spoke later, had called for a reintroduction of the death penalty with reference to the Bible? And what if he had otherwise threatened Europe with judgment. Or Msgr. Michael Banach as a representative of the Holy See (as a state) with the OSCE? That would have led to great indignation among the media and, after that, there would have been sharp statements from politicians all throughout Europe that followed.
Or better yet: If I had called for something like that as a representative of the World Evangelical Alliance. I would have possibly achieved the notoriety of the religious eccentric Terry Jones, who burned a Koran. (Fortunately there is nothing like the penal law of the Sharia, i.e., a holy Christian penal law, so that no one can call for its implementation.)
For a long time I have advocated peaceful coexistence between all religions and world views, including Islam. I have often officially met with Muslim leaders throughout the world, not to mention many other contacts and confidence-building measures.
However, I often just stand shaking my head about the double standard with which secular Europe measures Islam and Christianity. In the process, it is precisely secularly oriented people who have everything to lose if such an Islamist view were to become the thing, while Christians neither call for nor promote a thing like that. Rather, on the basis of theological grounds, they justify and help to stabilize democracy, human rights, and religious freedom.
(Addendum, June 2011)
Quite some time after the meeting in Vienna, a written version of the talk has become available and can be found on the official OSCE website: http://www.osce.org/odihr/74621 The talk has indeed been shortened and changed, but one can read here nevertheless:
- that for all practical purposes the ideas of religious freedom and human rights are not to be found,
- that this was actually if anything an Islamic sermon ending with a collection of verses from the Koran,
- that Islam is the only religion not invented by mankind (middle of p. 3) and the sole religion which truly has God in the center (middle of p. 4),
- that the talk ends by saying that the Bible has been falsified (p. 6),
- that the death penalty must be reintroduced and that adultery, the consumption of alcohol, consumption of pork, and the wearing of modern women’s clothing should be punished throughout all of Europe (p. 5).
An all this in the setting of a major human rights authority and within the context of a symposium on religious freedom!