Islamic states: Criminalize defamation of Islam

Islamic states circulate new resolution at UN Human Rights Council that would also encourage Shari'a.

UN securi council 224 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
UN securi council 224 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Islamic states circulated a new resolution at the current session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Wednesday that would criminalize defamation of Islam as a human rights violation and encourage the imposition of Shari'a. According to the nonbinding governmental resolution, titled "Combating Defamation of Religions," anything deemed insulting to Islamic sensitivities would be banned as a "serious affront to human dignity" and a blatant violation of religious freedom. The resolution would attempt to influence "local, national, regional and international levels" to incorporate such guarantees of this perceived freedom in their "legal and constitutional systems." "It is a covert package coordinated by Pakistan against the West," said Leon Saltiel, director of communications at the Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch, on Thursday. "They think there is too much liberty and freedom of expression in the Western world, which therefore defames religion." This resolution is part of the ongoing campaign of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, a powerful bloc of 56 states at the UN, which began to introduce annual resolutions in 1999 to ban the "defamation of Islam." Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, said during an address to Radio Free Europe in December that "Islamic states pursued the diplomatic battle with a vengeance" because of the post-9/11 war on terror and the controversy ignited by the cartoon of their prophet published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005. "The resolutions pose a major threat to the premises and principles of international human rights law and harm Muslims as much as non-Muslims. International law already protects victims of religious discrimination," for instance via the 1984 Declaration of Human Rights and the 1966 International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, declared Neuer. The resolutions fail to address human rights violations of Muslim countries, notably Iran's persecution of Baha'is, Saudi Arabia's banning of all religious practice aside from Islam, and the persecution of Christian communities in Egypt, Pakistan and Iraq. The latest resolution is "not really trying to protect individuals from harm," but rather attempting "to shield a set of beliefs from question or debate and to ban any discussion of Islam that may challenge state orthodoxies or offend Islamic sensibilities," Neuer said. Wednesday's resolution would immediately target moderate Muslims from the countries sponsoring the resolution with "state-sanctioned blasphemy laws," UN Watch said in a statement. It would also target the Western media, which the resolution accuses of "deliberate stereotyping of religions, their adherents and sacred persons." Although similar resolutions have been passed for the past couple of years, this resolution is of particular importance because "the ideas of the resolution will be incorporated into Durban texts," said Saltiel, referring to the UN Durban Review Conference on Racism to be held in Geneva next month. "If the resolution is passed enough times, it becomes an international legal norm," Saltiel said. "Tragically, given that Islamic states completely dominate the Human Rights Council, with the support of non-democratic members like Russia, China and Cuba, adoption of the regressive resolution is a foregone conclusion," UN Watch said. The "Combating Defamation of Religions" resolution will be voted on March 26-27, giving organizations in Geneva such as UN Watch two weeks to mobilize international opposition to it, Saltiel said. In December, Neuer declared that "the most dire threat is coming from Geneva, where an Algerian-chaired subcommittee of the UN's upcoming Durban II racism conference has this week been seeking to amend international human rights treaty law to ban 'defamation of religion,' especially Islam. "Eleanor Roosevelt, whose universal declaration we celebrate this month on its 60th anniversary, must be turning in her grave," he said. Since December, Algeria has drafted an international protocol on that theme, due to be brought before the UN General Assembly in September.