Information ministers and officials from 44 Islamic nations were to end a two-day meeting in Saudi Arabia yesterday that aimed to create ``an Islamic information order.'' The meeting, held under the auspices of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in Jeddah, was called to adopt a unified strategy to protect and advance the causes of Islam and of Muslims.
``Our faith is vilified, our culture sneered at, our difficulties magnified and our peoples, governments, and institutions subjected to misrepresentation, ridicule, and censure,'' OIC Secretary-General Sharifuddin Pirzada said, according to news accounts of the meeting.
The OIC meeting was open to news organizations from participating Islamic countries and selected news agencies. But The Christian Science Monitor, for one, was not granted the necessary permission from Saudi Arabia to enter the kingdom to cover the Islamic conference.
Saudi Arabia's King Fahd opened the conference with words of encouragement for Islamic news men and women. ``It is hoped and desired that our Islamic mass media will rise to the occasion to defend our Islamic faith as well as our interests in international fields,'' he said.
``We must give much attention to information so that we can project to the whole world that the Islamic faith is a faith of peace and stability.''
Mr. Pirzada urged members of the OIC to support the growth of the International Islamic News Agency and the Islamic States Broadcasting Organization.
In an interview with the official Saudi Press Agency, Dr. Muhammed Habib bin Al-Khoja, secretary general of the Islamic Jurisprudence Academy, said a well-defined information strategy could help clarify Islamic causes and enable non-Muslims to become acquainted with the history and teachings of Islam.
Dr. Al-Khoja also warned Muslims to be wary of news organizations ``controlled by Masons, Christian missionaries, Zionists, and Communists.''
An editorial in Saudi Arabia's daily Arab News said the Islamic information conference was long overdue. ``Anti-Islamic prejudice is most definitely on the increase,'' it noted. ``Much of it is pure religious bigotry, but there is a marked streak of racism involved in it as well.''
The editorial continued: ``The Islamic world cannot sit back and do nothing in the hope that hostility will fade away ...
``There is a need for the better dissemination of information relating to Islam from Islamic countries; we cannot allow ourselves to rely on the insensitive and uncomprehending international news agencies ...
``... It is time that the non-Islamic world saw that there is an Islamic viewpoint to what is happening across the globe,'' the editorial says.