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Friday, 19 December 2008

“Defaming” religion

A defamation-of-religion resolution that says that “Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism” passed in the UN General Assembly on Thursday.

However, it got with fewer votes than in previous years.

That quoted clause above doesn’t say Islam is never guilty of human-rights violations and terrorism. It’s ambiguous. It is “frequently and wrongly associated”? Does that mean it’s wrong every time it’s associated with human-rights violations and terrorism? Just some of the time?

Because it’s pretty obvious to most observers that human-rights violations and terrorism have been carried out in the name of Islam’s brutal god.

According to CNN News:

Over the past year opponents ranging to media watchdogs and free speech advocates to Christian and humanist groups have stepped up lobbying against the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)-driven campaign.

Thursday’s vote passed by a margin of 86–53, with 42 countries abstaining. The result showed a significant erosion of support since a similar resolution passed in the General Assembly last December by a vote of 108–51, with 25 abstentions.

For the first time, the number of countries supporting the resolution fell behind the number of those voting against or abstaining.

A step in the right direction, then. But why on earth is such a nonsensical thing before the Assembly, anyway? Religion cannot be defamed in any meaningfully legalistic sense. It can be debunked, ridiculed, analysed, torn to pieces, yes, which is what it often deserves – or at least many of its adherents do, since a religion in and of itself can’t actually do anything.

But blogs such as this one and its sister publication, G&LH, have as their mission the ridiculing of those who take religion too seriously, especially when it makes them do stupid things, such as demand special rights and privileges.

The CNN story continues:

“Although it is disappointing that religious freedom takes another step backwards today, we are extremely encouraged that the majority of countries in the world did not vote in favor of banning peaceful religious speech,” said Angela C. Wu, the international law director at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

The Washington-based public interest law firm viewed the shift in support for the resolution among UN member states as “a significant backlash”.

The Becket Fund earlier made a submission to the world body arguing that any attempt to treat religious discrimination in the same way as racial discrimination could result in “the suppression of peaceful, but controversial, discussions of truth claims about and within religions”.

The Becket Fund, and other critics of the OIC push, note that in some of the Islamic countries leading the campaign – notably Pakistan, Egypt and Iran – blasphemy laws target those who challenge the religious viewpoints approved by the state. Some also outlaw conversions from Islam to other faiths.

To these critics, outlawing “religious defamation” at the UN would not only legitimize those regimes’ behavior but could lead eventually to similar restrictions on free expression in non-Islamic countries as well.

“The ‘defamation of religions’ resolution is a direct violation of the United Nations’ mandate to protect religious freedom, as peaceful religious speech – a manifestation of belief – will be silenced as a result of it,” Wu said.

Wu goes on to say, “We are deeply disappointed that the UN has given cover to oppressive governments to persecute dissenters.”

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