Muslim nations must collectively resist growing Islamophobia in the United States and Europe, the head of the world’s largest organization of Islamic countries told ministers from the 57 member nations gathered in New York this week. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu urged members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, who met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, to work with Western leaders to dispel misconceptions about their faith. The OIC secretary-general told the Associated Press on Saturday that he would be taking the message on the road next week to Chicago, where the organization will host a major conference on Islam and Muslims in America at the American Islamic College. Education, Ihsanoglu said, is the key to helping the West truly understand Islam. Islam has recently been under attack in the United States, especially with a controversy over a proposed Islamic center near the World Trade Center site and threats by groups to burn the Quran in protest. The OIC chief’s new book, "The Islamic World in the New Century: The Organization of the Islamic Conference, 1969-2009," includes an entire chapter on the danger of growing Islamophobia in the West. "The Muslim world is going through an unprecedented difficult and trying time," İhsanoğlu told the ministers during their annual meeting Friday. "We are facing daunting challenges and severe hardships. Islam and Muslims are under serious attack, and Islamophobia is growing and becoming more rampant and dangerous by the day." Ihsanoglu said a "pandemic of Islam vilification" is sweeping through some parts of Europe and the United States, increasing misperceptions about Islam and eroding Muslims’ human rights. "We need an all inclusive effort of OIC member states to stem this menace," he told the ministers. "That is why I firmly believe that this question of Islamophobia should figure prominently on the agenda of all OIC member states whenever they deal with their Western counterparts." Ihsanoglu, who is from Turkey, has headed the OIC since 2005. The group is seen as a moderate, collective voice for Islam. "The OIC is a strategic and crucial partner of the United Nations and plays a significant role in helping to resolve a wide range of issues facing the world community," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement to the group when it met Friday. Member states reflect the reach of Islam across the Middle East, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, and include Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Morocco, Afghanistan, Syria, Chad, Senegal, Niger, Sudan, Guyana and Surinam.