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Tuesday, 5 August 2008

How do you defame the utterly fatuous?

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting take on the fashionable pastime of claiming one's beliefs in sky fairies are being "defamed". Its headline says, " 'Defamation of Religion' – The New International Legal Craze?"

"Is liability for 'defamation of religion' catching on?" it asks, and continues:

The United Nations hopes so, reports Maclean’s[. . .] According to Maclean’s, Pakistan brought the first “defamation of religions” resolution, entitled “Defamation of Islam,” to the UN Human Rights Council in 1999. (The title was later changed to include all religions, notes Maclean’s, although the texts of all subsequent resolutions have continued to single out Islam.)

In March, the Islamic nations were successful in introducing a change to the mandate of the UN’s “special rapporteur on freedom of expression” (an official who travels the world investigating and reporting on censorship and violations of free speech) to now “report on instances where the abuse of the right of freedom of expression constitutes an act of racial or religious discrimination.” The issue, reports the magazine, is expected to be a focal point of the UN World Conference Against Racism next year in Geneva.

"Islamophobia is a problem," says Angela Wu, the international law director for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a public-interest law firm. "But this is not a practical solution, and it destabilizes the human rights agenda. The defamation of religions protects ideas rather than individuals, and makes the state the arbiter of which ideas are true. It requires the state to sort good and bad ideologies."

And it is to this stage that the world's God botherers – well, many of them, anyway – want to bring us. An end to freedom of expression, and let's instead see the world according to desiccated old scriptures written by ancient nomadic herdsmen.

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