Parliamentarians' plea for tolerance

Muslim parliamentarians meeting in Abu Dhabi say that struggling against foreign occupation should not be labelled an act of terrorism.

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ABU DHABI // Muslim parliamentarians meeting in Abu Dhabi yesterday called on political and media figures to refrain from equating Muslims to terrorists.

Their request comes amid controversy in the US over comments by high-profile members of the media.

Bill O'Reilly, a prominent talk show host, was forced to apologise after saying that Muslims "killed us on 9/11" on a recent episode of The View, while Juan Williams, an analyst on National Public Radio, was fired for saying that plane passengers in Muslim dress made him "nervous".

The executive committee of the Parliamentary Union of the Organisation of Islamic Countries Member States (PUIC) also called on the international community to take concrete steps against Israeli settlement expansion in Jerusalem and, in an apparent reference to Palestinians, said that struggling against foreign occupation should not be labelled an act of terrorism.

It urged members of the PUIC to lobby the international community "to stop the ever-increasing Israeli settlement measures in Jerusalem", and warned of "the adverse effects which will ensue from the latest Israeli government's decision concerning the Jewishness of Israel on the demographic structure and nature of the Holy City and its legal status".

The Israeli Cabinet recently approved a measure that would require Jews and non-Jews seeking citizenship to pledge allegiance to Israel as a "Jewish and democratic state".

The committee also called on the UN, international organisations and "influential powers" to press for a "just and lasting settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict".

The plea comes as the latest direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority stalled over the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's refusal to extend a moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank.

Settlement activity "does not just violate international law ... but it also represents a scandalous disregard towards the opinion of the International Court of Justice," said Abdul Aziz al Ghurair, the chairman of the committee and the speaker of the Federal National Council.

The future of Jerusalem was "on the edge of real, imminent danger", he added.

The committee "stresses that the struggle of peoples under the yoke of foreign occupation" should "not be considered in any way an act of terrorism".

It also offered support to a statement issued by the UN Human Rights Council in the wake of threats to burn the Quran on the anniversary of September 11 that condemned "recent incidents of religious intolerance".

The committee said laws were needed that "advocate respect for beliefs, freedom of worship and human rights" and asked the international community to take steps to end religious intolerance. It also rejected "all political and media allegations on linking Islam with terrorism and vilifying Islamic symbols".

Mr al Ghurair called for steps to ensure a Middle East free from nuclear weapons, saying Israel should subject its facilities to international inspections.

"We have to warn against the severe consequences of Israel's continued refusal to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and subjecting all its nuclear facilities to the comprehensive safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency," he said.

"The right to security for all the countries in the region has to be balanced with other countries."