Yesterday marked the opening of the international conference announced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a high-level meeting on Islamophobia that she co-chaired, held last July in Istanbul and hosted by the Saudi-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). At the time, Secretary Clinton described this week's conference as a move to implement U.N. Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18 on "combating [religious] intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization."
This State Department conference, entitled "The Istanbul Process," is proving to be a very bad idea. It remains to be seen whether speech limitations to protect religion generally and Islam specifically will be officially endorsed by the conference — similar recommendations have already been adopted by the OIC and by the EU conference participants — but, judging from the opening session, at least some of my misgivings seem well founded.
The three-day conference was closed to the public, but I was invited to its opening session (as well as to the closing session to be held on Wednesday) by virtue of my being a commissioner on the official but independent U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. "Chatham House Rules," which State directed us to abide by, forbid releasing anything about a specific delegation or quoting for attribution.