Thursday, April 22, 2010

UN and Defamation of Religion

A non-binding resolution was adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council condemning the “defamation of religion” as a violation of human rights. The promoters of the resolution, characterized as “a step in the right direction to deal with the growing problem of Islamophobia, were led by Pakistan.

This is a mistake.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights clearly sets forth the right of freedom of expression, including freedom of religion and conscience. Public international law does not promulgate rules to defend political ideas, much less religious; rather, the focus of the international human rights system targets the protection of individual rights. The Muslim countries and organizations which supported this resolution and actions like it are seeking to establish rules against religious defamation – whatever that happens to be at the moment. This is ridiculous.

The right of individuals to practice their religion freely is already set forth in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. That does not mean that people can be prevented from legitimate or illegitimate criticism of an idea, religious or not. Any religion, its founders, priests, prophets whatever, can be discussed or ridiculed. Get over it. It is freedom of speech –something not enjoyed in most Muslim countries at any level and where people face the death penalty for, among other things, sorcery, a true 12th century attitude.

Blasphemy laws are frequently used to suppress those with different interpretations of Islam – including those who support women’s rights or religious minorities. It is useless at this point to comment on death threats by fanatical believers against Salman Rushdie or other intellectuals who dare to offend those with different views.

Islam, or any other religion for that matter, does not need protection from criticism and does not need this resolution which will only be used to justify religious intolerance on all sides and lead to further bloodshed.
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