ICANN Knocks Back Applications for .PERSIANGULF, .ISLAM and .HALAL

ICANN has knocked back applications for the .persiangulf, .islam and .halal new gTLDs. The decisions were taken in a board meeting on 3 October.

In the case of the .persiangulf new generic top level domain, the Gulf Cooperation Council objected to the application by Asia Green (AGIT), while in the case of .islam and .halal the objections came from ICANN’s own Board Accountability Mechanisms Committee and the wider community. The Turkish Asia Green applied for 5 new gTLD strings, the other 2 being .pars and .shia, both of which have been delegated but not yet taken any registrations with CoCCA providing registry services.

The decisions, in the case of .islam and .halal reflect concerns by at least sections of the of the “community most impacted by the proposed” new gTLDs and reflected concerns, namely religious sensitivities.

In November 2012, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and India submitted Early Warning notices through the GAC against both applications, expressing serious concerns regarding a perceived lack of community involvement in, and support for, the AGIT applications. Then in April 2013 some GAC members raised sensitivities on the applications that relate to Islamic terms, specifically .islam and .halal. The GAC members concerned have noted that the applications for .islam and .halal lack community involvement and support. Later in 2013 Kuwait, the Lebanese GAC representative, the Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology of Indonesia all separately objected to the 2 applications going forward.

Despite AGIT proposing “certain governance mechanisms for the .islam and .halal strings” in December 2013, they couldn’t overcome objections. Later that month the OIC sent a letter to the ICANN Board Chair, stating that the foreign ministers of the OIC’s 57 Muslim member states had unanimously adopted a resolution officially objecting to the operation of the .ISLAM and .HALAL TLDs “by any entity not reflecting the collective voice of the Muslim People[.]”

Regarding the application for .persiangulf, it too went through objections and appeals. However while ICANN had initially sought to proceed with the application for the string, their Independent Review Process (IRP), following a review sought by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), recommended that the “Board take no further action on the ‘.persiangulf’ gTLD application, and in specific not sign the registry agreement with Asia Green, or any other entity, in relation to the ‘.persiangulf’ gTLD.”

The IRP stated that it “is not convinced that just because the GAC failed to express the GCC’s concerns (made in their role as GAC members) in the Durban Communiqué that the Board did not need to consider these concerns.” The Panel further stated that the Board should have reviewed and considered the GAC member concerns that were reflected in the GAC Durban Meeting Minutes.

The IRP concluded in part that “the GCC’s due process rights” were “harmed” by the Board’s decision to proceed with the application because, according to the Panel, such decision was “taken without even basic due diligence despite known controversy.” The IRP also noted “basic flaws underlying the Board’s decision cannot be undone with future dialogue.”

Prior to the IRP, ICANN’s Board Accountability Mechanisms Committee reviewed the application and made recommendations. At ICANN62 in Panama City, representatives from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Oman attended a dialogue with concerned GAC members. In addition, the UAE representative indicated that he was speaking on behalf of his own country as well as on behalf of Kuwait and the Gulf Cooperation Council (whose members are the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar). The UAE and Bahrain representatives reiterated the previously-expressed concerns regarding the .persiangulf application, referencing the long-standing “Arabian Gulf” vs. “Persian Gulf” naming dispute. The representatives noted that: the “Persian Gulf” name “misrepresents what we believe as our region”; this is a “very, very sensitive” issue; all but one of the countries bordering the body of water do not recognize the “Persian Gulf” name; if the “Persian Gulf” name was permitted, “it would spur more of an emotional setback to the rest of the region that others would recognize that [name] as being a body of water that is related to one country, and it’s not”; and they “don’t envisage any solution other than…the application being terminated.”