Friday, 25 March 2011

"Defamation of religion" finally dropped by Islamic states at the UN

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The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva
Yesterday, Islamic states finally gave up on their long-running efforts to introduce the condemnation of "defamation of religion" into United Nations human rights standards. Members of the 57-state Organisation of the Islamic Conference have won support from many African and Asian states, including China, North Korea and Russia, for a series of resolutions at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in the last 12 years, with Western and Latin American countries fiercly opposing the measures, which have been widely viewed as attempts to stifle criticism of the oppressive blasphemy laws in place in many Islamic states.

Last week, we reported on a shift in emphasis, with Islamic states channeling their efforts into introducing a resolution "Combating incitement to hatred against believers", with the notion of "defaming" the religion itself left out. Yesterday, Western and Latin American states backed the new resolution, which, say Reuters, "condemns any advocacy of religious hatred that amounts to incitement to hostility or violence against believers and calls on governments to act to prevent it".

Progress, for sure, but as the International Humanist and Ethical Union noted last week, the proposed resolution does not recognise the issue of hatred and violence against non-believers who, in the word's of IHEU's Roy Brown, are "at equally great if not even greater risk than believers in far too many parts of the world."

There's an ominous message, too, at the end of the Reuters piece, with diplomats from Islamic states having "warned the council that they could return to campaigning for an international law against religious defamation if Western countries are not seen as acting to protect believers".
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