The United Nations Human Rights Council on Wednesday approved a disputed resolution on religious hatred in the wake of the burning of a Quran in Sweden, prompting concern by Western states who say it challenges long-held practices in rights protection.
The resolution, introduced by Pakistan on behalf of the 57-nation Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), calls for the UN rights chief to publish a report on religious hatred and for states to review their laws and plug gaps that may "impede the prevention and prosecution of acts and advocacy of religious hatred."
"They lack political, legal, and moral courage to condemn this act, and it was the minimum that the Council could have expected from them."Khalil Hasmi
It was strongly opposed by the United States and the European Union, who say it conflicts with their view on human rights and freedom of expression. While condemning the burning of the Quran, they argued the OIC initiative was designed to safeguard religious symbols rather than human rights.
An Iraqi immigrant to Sweden burned the Quran outside a Stockholm mosque last month, sparking outrage across the Muslim world and demands by Muslim states for action.
The vote's outcome marks a major defeat for Western countries at a time when the OIC has unprecedented clout in the council, the only body made up of governments to protect human rights worldwide.
Twenty-eight countries voted in favor, 12 voted against, and seven countries abstained. Representatives of some countries clapped after the resolution passed.
Marc Limon, director of the Geneva-based Universal Rights Group, said the outcome showed "the West is in full retreat at the Human Rights Council.
"They're increasingly losing support and losing the argument," he said.
Concerns about initiative not being taken seriously
Michele Taylor, the US Permanent Representative to the UN Human Rights Council, said the United States' concerns about the initiative "were not taken seriously.
"I believe with a little more time and more open discussion, we could have also found a way forward together on this resolution," she said.
After the vote, Pakistan's Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Khalil Hasmi, accused the West of "lip service" to their commitment to preventing religious hatred.
"The opposition of a few in the room has emanated from their unwillingness to condemn the public desecration of the Holy Quran or any other religious book," he said.
"They lack political, legal, and moral courage to condemn this act, and it was the minimum that the Council could have expected from them."