Following the recent lethal violence and rioting which broke out across the Middle East and North Africa – on the pretext of being offended by a third-rate, amateurish YouTube video – the subject of the defence of the right to free speech is once more upon the agenda in the Western world.
Strangely, the British government has chosen this time to sign a new agreement with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (formerly known as the Organisation of the Islamic Conference or OIC) which it describes as a “Cooperation Framework” designed to lead to “closer dialogue”.
“Baroness Warsi, who in 2010 became the first Muslim to serve in a British cabinet, said, ‘This agreement is another significant step in strengthening the vital relationship between the UK and the OIC. When I addressed the OIC Conference in Kazakhstan in June 2011, I said we face the global challenges together. This agreement formalises that establishing our many, many areas of co-operation, from security to conflict prevention; from religious freedom to human rights. One of the central aims of my new role will be to strengthen this relationship further and I am looking forward to ensuring we continue to work closely to achieve our mutual goals.’”
In the same year that Sayeeda Warsi became the first British Minister to address the OIC annual conference, the government appointed Mohammed Shokat as UK Special Representative to the OIC.
The new Memorandum of Understanding was signed at the UN General Assembly in New York, even as OIC members such as Iran and the Palestinian Territories took advantage of the UN platform to talk of Israel being “eliminated” and to accuse it of threatening Muslim holy places and “colonial occupation”.
Bizarrely, following the signing of the agreement, Saeeda Warsi was to be found championing the OIC’s “interest” in human rights, conflict prevention, and religious freedom on Twitter.