Zagreb, Croatia, Feb 9, 2022 / 08:00 am (CNA).
A body representing more than 1,000 Muslim leaders worldwide expressed alarm on Tuesday at a Catholic politician’s inclusion in a report on Islamophobia in Europe.
“The Global Imams Council was alarmed to learn of the inclusion of the Honourable Marijana Petir, Member of the Croatian Parliament, in the European Islamophobia Report published on Dec. 29, 2021, and her classification as an ‘Islamophobe.’ We reject this charge and consider it false, inaccurate, irresponsible and defamatory,” said a statement signed by the group’s president, Imam Mohammad Baqir al-Budairi.
“Marijana Petir MP is known to this Council as an advocate for peace, harmony, coexistence and the rights of persecuted Christians worldwide, more specifically in the Middle East.”
The 886-page report cited Petir, a former member of the European Parliament, in a section entitled “Islamophobia in Croatia National Report 2020,” one of 31 country reports.
It said: “The politician and independent parliament member Marijana Petir, known for her statement from 2015 saying that Christians were persecuted by Muslims in wars and that the current ‘refugee crisis’ was in fact an attempt by Muslims to occupy predominantly Catholic European countries including Croatia, suggested a proposal worth 1.5 million HRK in the form of aid to Christians prosecuted for their faith in countries where Islamist militants are in power. The government accepted the proposal.”
The Global Imams Council opposes the inclusion of The Honourable Marijana Petir MP in the European Islamophobia Report published on the 29th of December 2021. We reject this charge and consider it false, inaccurate, irresponsible and defamatory.
Our full statement: pic.twitter.com/7Qtj45dUUl
— Global Imams Council (@ImamsOrg) February 9, 2022
A footnote cited an article referring to a speech she gave in 2015, published in the Croatian weekly news magazine Nacional on Nov. 25, 2020.
Petir told CNA on Jan. 21 that the description of her 2015 speech, in both the report and the article, was inaccurate.
“The report on Islamophobia in Europe for 2020 contains my statement from 2015, which I never said, so we can consider that this report is based on false accusations,” she said.
Croatia is a country of four million people bordering Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. More than 86% of the population is Catholic.
Petir, an independent member of parliament, was instrumental in persuading the Croatian government to offer college scholarships to young people from countries where Christians face persecution.
The introduction of the scholarships marked the first time since the country gained independence in 1991 that it had earmarked money specifically to help individuals outside the European Union persecuted for their Christian faith.
Petir said it was unclear how giving scholarships to persecuted Christians could be characterized as Islamophobia.
“We do not give scholarships to Christians just because they are Christians, but because they are the most persecuted religious group in the world, and this is confirmed by reports of international organizations such as Aid to Church in Need and Open Doors,” she told CNA.
The Global Imams Council, which is based in Iraq and says it represents more than 1,350 Muslim leaders of over 90 different nationalities, defended Petir’s comments on Islamist extremism.
“Her statements critical of Islamist extremists and terrorists do not make her an Islamophobe. It is her duty as an elected Member of Parliament to condemn all forms of terrorism, and she has this Council’s support in doing so,” it said.
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