GENEVA (AP) — The U.N.’s top human-rights body approved a proposal by Muslims nations Thursday urging passage of laws around the world to protect religion from criticism.
The proposal put forward by Pakistan on behalf of Islamic countries — with the backing of Belarus and Venezuela — had drawn strong criticism from free-speech campaigners and liberal democracies.
A simple majority of 23 members of the 47-nation Human Rights Council voted in favor of the resolution. Eleven nations, mostly Western, opposed the resolution, and 13 countries abstained.
The resolution urges states to provide “protection against acts of hatred, discrimination, intimidation and coercion resulting from defamation of religions and incitement to religious hatred in general.”
Muslim nations have argued that religions, in particular Islam, must be shielded from criticism in the media and other areas of public life. They cited cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad as an example of unacceptable free speech.
“Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism,” the resolution said.
Opponents of the resolution included Canada, all European Union countries, Switzerland, Ukraine and Chile.
“It is individuals who have rights and not religions,” Canadian diplomat Terry Cormier said.
India, which normally votes along with the council’s majority of developing nations, abstained in protest at the fact that Islam was the only religion specifically named as deserving protection.
The United States did not vote on the resolution because it is not a member of the council.
In the resolution it adopted yesterday on the defamation of religions, the United Nations Human Rights Council has yet again demonstrated its inability to defend the values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Reporters Without Borders said.
“The Council had just dealt a severe blow to the freedom of expression it is supposed to defend,” the press freedom organisation said. “By approving a resolution that seeks to suppress criticism of Islam, this UN body has once again shown that it is incapable of defending human rights effectively.
“This resolution is outrageous. On the grounds of combating discrimination, it assails the news media for the ‘targeting of religious symbols’ and ‘sacred persons,’ especially those of Islam. In other words, the UN is asking the media to stop criticising Islam in the name of combating incitement to religious hatred. This is unacceptable to all those who feel strongly about the defence of free expression.”
Reporters Without Borders added : “The UN is on a slippery slope that poses a danger for freedom of opinion. All the freedoms must be defended with equal strength. It is not acceptable for the UN to take such an extreme stand in defence of one freedom at the expense of another. It goes against all of the UN’s fundamental principles.”
Submitted by Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and concerning implementation of the Durban conference on racism’s programme of action, the resolution was approved at yesterday’s UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva by 23 votes in favour, 11 against (European Union, Canada and Chile) and 13 abstentions.
The resolution urges UN member countries to adopt measures to combat “acts of hatred, discrimination, intimidation and coercion resulting from the defamation of any religion” and deplores “the use of printed, audio-visual and electronic media, including the Internet” to target religious symbols and sacred persons. It voices concern about the failure of certain countries to combat discriminatory practices and stresses the need to combat defamation of all religions, in particular, Islam and Muslims.
A Durban II conference will be held on 20-24 April in Geneva.
GENEVA (Reuters) – Some 200 secular, religious and media groups from around the world on Wednesday urged the United Nations Human Rights Council to reject a call from Islamic countries for a global fight against “defamation of religion.”
The groups, including some Muslim bodies, issued their appeal in a statement on the eve of a vote in the Council in Geneva on a resolution proposed by the 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
Such a resolution, the statement said, “may be used in certain countries to silence and intimidate human rights activists, religious dissenters and other independent voices,” and to restrict freedom of religion and of speech.
The resolution, its critics say, would also restrict free speech and even academic study in open societies in the West and elsewhere.
Islamic countries argue that criticizing or lampooning religions is a violation of the rights of believers and leads to discrimination and violence against them. Cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, first published in a Danish newspaper, sparked riots in the Muslim world in 2006.
Huh? It was Muslims who rioted. That does not qualify as “violence against them.”
Freedom to Preach Death Watch Continued