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Europe

OSCE Renews Vow to End Intolerance

OSCE nations wrapped up an international conference on anti-Semitism and racism in Cordoba, Spain with a declaration to take concrete, legislative action to fight all forms of intolerance.

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The OSCE criticized the failure of many states to act on promises

The "Cordoba Declaration" summarizes what delegates at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's two-day conference plan to do to stop religious and racial intolerance: maintaining an international database monitoring hate crimes and introducing hate crimes legislation.

But some delegates expressed their frustration at rising rates of religious hate crimes across Europe, and a sense that the OSCE has failed to live up to promises made at a conference in Berlin last year.

"We need to do more to convert these sound words and goodwill to fight anti-Semitism and intolerance into action and it's clear that a number of states have just not taken that step," said New York Governor George Pataki, head of the US delegation.

More data collection needed

But Christian Strohal, who heads the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, said that in order to take effective action, governments need to gather more information about religious intolerance in their own countries. He criticized countries for failing to act on this point.

Almost half of the OSCE's 55 members missed commitments to provide data to track hate crimes. Just three countries -- the US, Canada, and Britain -- gave thorough, reliable data, according to an OSCE report.

"We would very much want to see more information so that we can precisely identify where the possible deficits are in the capacity of governments to respond effectively, in order to avoid what then would be an action deficit," Strohal said.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos said that his government's progressive legislation to stop violence and discrimination against women could be used as a model for laws to stop religious discrimination.

Muslim community targeted

Spanien - La Mezquita in Cordoba

The "Mezquita" mosque in Cordoba serves as a reminder of the Muslim civilization that once dominated Spain. Now, OSCE delegates worry about growing intolerance aimed at Muslims in Europe.

Of particular concern among the delegates was anti-Muslim discrimination. Delegates said that public outrage at attacks by Islamic militants was being directed against the whole Muslim community, and that the fight against terrorism headed by Western governments was adversely affecting Muslims.

A Muslim OSCE spokesman, Omur Orhun, said that while there has been growing hostility towards Muslims in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, it is not just a post Sept. 11 phenomenon.

"Muslims in Europe in countries where there have traditionally been large groups have always felt a sense of discrimination," Orhun said. "In those countries, the efforts of integration, to a great extent, have failed."

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