Comments by David G. Littman, Representative of the Association for World Education and the World Union for Progressive Judaism to the United Nations:
On June 26, ten days after the June 16 “Sharia Affair” landmark at the Human Rights Council (see UN Human Rights Council: Any mention of the word “sharia” is now taboo; UNHRC: Something is, indeed, rotten in the State of “¦ the Council; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03dOu-DNLec),
the Permanent Mission of the OIC to the UN in Geneva forwarded to the High Commissioner for Human Rights the “OIC Observatory Report on Islamophobia” — regarding the implementation of General Assembly Resolution 62/154, entitled “Combating defamation of religions” , of which a summary was reproduced as a General Assembly document (A/HRC/9/G/2) .The OIC document, processed on 24 July was made available only yesterday on the UN website for the 9th session of the UNCHR (8-26 September). We have reproduced four key paragraphs from this very pertinent Report — the introduction, one in the middle and two concluding passages:
One of the challenges of today”s world is the issue of Islamophobia. In recent years, this phenomenon has assumed serious proportions and has become a major cause of concern for the Muslim world. As a result of this rising trend, Muslims, in the West in particular, are being stereotyped, profiled, and subjected to different forms of discriminatory treatment. The most sacred symbols of Islam are being defiled and denigrated in an insulting, offensive, and contemptuous manner to incite hatred and unrest in society. While Islam, as the religion of peace and tolerance, affirms moderation and balance and rejects all forms of extremism and terrorism, the proponents of Islamophobia continue their campaign to defame Islam and Muslims. (“¦)
The Observatory Report states that Islamophobia will continue to be an issue of concern for the international community in the near future unless the international community comes up with effective measures to contain it. The Report, however, argues that the Muslim world’s outcry at Islamophobic incidents, in particular the publication of the defamatory cartoon of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the unfortunate and unwarranted remarks by Pope Benedict XVI at a University in Germany on September 20, 2006, had a negative impact on the Muslim world and drew attention of its official and public opinion to the gravity of the issue. (“¦)
Since the submission of the first Observatory Report and immediately in the wake of the 11th OIC Summit, a major Islamophobic incident that shocked and dismayed all Muslims and the international community was the release of the film “Fitna” denigrating the Holy Qur’an. This was preceded by the reprint of cartoons of the Prophet (PBUH) by seventeen Danish newspapers. Condemning the release of the film in the strongest terms, the OIC Secretary General described it as a deliberate act of discrimination against Muslims, incitement of hatred, and an act of defamation of religions solely designed to incite and provoke unrest among peoples of different religious beliefs, and to jeopardize world peace and stability. He warned the international community against the repercussions of this serious development. He also took up the matter with the Dutch Government, urging it to initiate legal action against the acts committed under the pretext of freedom of expression.
The Observatory Report concludes that the relentless campaign of hatred and intolerance of Islam and Muslims by vested individuals and ultra-right wing groups notwithstanding, there is now a general awareness in the international community on Islamophobia’s serious implications. Western Governments, NGOs, and the civil society have started to take serious note of the concerns of the Muslim world over the dangers of defamation of Islam and have shown willingness to engage in dialogue. The Report also shows that these developments still fall short of the actions and political needed to address the issue in decisive and clear terms, since Islamophobes remain free to carry on their attacks in the absence of necessary legal measures to curb the misuse or abuse of the right to freedom of expression. The Report therefore concludes that OIC Member States may continue to vigorously pursue their efforts to combat Islamophobia at both multilateral and bilateral levels.
For this wake-up text on “Islamophobia” and “freedom of expression”, see here.
On December 18, 2007, when the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 62/154 “Combating Defamation of Religions” by 108 votes to 51 with 25 abstentions, many delegations opposed; Portugal, speaking for the European Union, explained that:
The European Union does not see the concept of “˜defamation of religions” as a valid one in a human rights discourse. From a human rights perspective, members of religious or belief communities should not be viewed as parts of homogenous entities. International human rights law protects primarily individuals in the exercise of their freedom of religion or belief, rather than the religions as such.
We are quoting this from joint written statement (A/HRC/7/NGO/96 — Association for World Education, International Humanist and Ethical Union, Association of World Citizens) to the 7th session of the HRC in which we addressed this point, concluding:
The OIC is attempting to limit both freedom of expression and freedom of religion, and to extend human rights to religion, per se, by its repeated promotion of the resolution “Combating Defamation of Religions” in the Commission on Human Rights [1999-2005], the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.
When the same resolution on “Combating the defamation of Religions” (only Islam is mentioned) was adopted at that 7th HRC session on March 27, 2008, the AP carried a despatch (New York Times/IHT) — in which the delegate of Saudi Arabia is quoted as saying that no culture should incite to religious hatred by attacking sacred teachings:
Maybe Islam is one of the most obvious victims of aggressions under the pretext of freedom of expression. It is regrettable that there are false translations and interpretations of the freedom of expression.
In June (8th session, soon after the “Sharia Affair”), the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) submitted to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights a 16-page substantive analysis “Combating Defamation of Religions” in response to the OHCHR”s invitation regarding implementation of UNGA Resolution 62/154. It begins:
The position of the ECLJ in regard to the issue of “defamation of religion” resolutions, as they have been introduced at the UN Human Rights Council and the General Assembly, is that they are in direct violation of international law concerning the rights to freedom of religion and expression. The “defamation of religion” resolutions establish as the primary focus and concern the protection the protection of ideas and religions generally, rather than protecting the rights of individuals to practice their religion, which is the chief purpose of international
religious freedom law. Furthermore, “defamation of religion” replaces the existing objective criterion of limitations on speech where there is an intent to incite hatred or violence against religious believers with a subjective criterion that considers whether the religion or its believers feel offended by the speech.
The ECLJ”s Appendix 1 provides six pages of “Samples of Recent Defamation of Religion Incidents and Cases” from 11 countries taken from media sources. For the full text, see here.
In another joint written statement (AWE/IHEU/AWC), also posted yesterday on the UN website: “Sixty Years after the UDHR: Threats to the Universality of Human Rights”, we reproduce a Press Release of the International Commission of Jurists from 1991 (“Jurists Concerned by the Declaration on Human Rights in Islam”), in which a highly respected international Muslim jurist, Adama Dieng — then the ICJ Secretary-General — provides a strong criticism and condemnation of the 1990 Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam,; it is still valid today. The CDHRI remains a cornerstones of the OIC struggle (jihad) to impose Sharia law at the United Nations and elsewhere — a stumbling block for article 18 and 19 of the UDHR: “the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” & “the right to freedom of opinion and expression.”
This written statement (A/HRC/9/NGO/2) concludes with an urgent reminder:
Surely, one of the lessons of the Cold War is that only a firm and uncompromising stand regarding fundamental issues can lead to the effective implementation of the ideals and objectives enshrined in the International Bill of Human Rights and other UN instruments.”
For the full text, see here.
As the 9th session of the Human Rights Council opens on September 8, a prologue line from Shakespeare’s Henry V comes to mind”¦ “For now sits Expectation in the air”¦.”