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Tuesday, 1 April 2008

When one religion wants it all its own way

Is the UN’s Human Rights Council favouring one particular religion over other religions and those of no religion at all? According to some activists, it wants to restrict free speech in order to do just that.

And they’re not too happy about it.

“The 47-nation Council passed resolutions on Friday,” says this Reuters story, “imposing new instructions for its investigator on freedom of expression which non-governmental organisations (NGOs) said bowed too far to concerns about defamation of Islam, which have flared again with a Dutch lawmaker’s [Geert Wilders’s] film on the Islamic holy book the Koran.”

The French group Reporters Without Borders is quoted as saying, “All of the Council’s decisions are nowadays determined by the interests of Muslim countries or powerful states such as China or Russia that know how to surround themselves with allies.”

And the International Unionist and Ethical Union (IHEU) says the Council “stands exposed as no longer capable of fulfilling its central role: the promotion and protection of human rights” in a report that includes this disturbing paragraph:

With the support of their allies including China, Russia and Cuba (none well-known for their defence of human rights) the Islamic States succeeded in forcing through an amendment to a resolution on Freedom of Expression that has turned the entire concept on its head. The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression will now be required to report on the “abuse” of this most cherished freedom by anyone who, for example, dares speak out against Sharia laws that require women to be stoned to death for adultery or young men to be hanged for being gay, or against the marriage of girls as young as nine, as in Iran.

The Reuters story continues:

Some Western and Latin American Council members who first helped draft the freedom of expression resolution, including main sponsor Canada, withdrew support when it came to a vote, saying it had been radically changed by amendments.

One of these, from Pakistan for the 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), decreed the investigator must “report on instances in which the abuse of the right of freedom of expression constitutes an act of racial or religious discrimination”.

See Ophelia Benson’s excellent take on this over at Butterflies and Wheels.

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