At last, a small bit of common sense: “Rights experts attack Islam defamation drive at UN,” by Robert Evans for Reuters, December 17 (thanks to James):
GENEVA, Dec 17 (Reuters) – The United Nations should stop passing resolutions, largely promoted by Islamic countries, calling for laws against “defamation of religion”, according to international experts on freedom of expression.
The four experts — from Africa, Europe, Latin America and the United Nations itself — said such laws were often used to shield religious leaders from criticism and to suppress religious minorities and non-believers.
“International organisations, including the United Nations General Assembly and Human Rights Council, should desist from the further adoption of statements supporting the idea of ‘defamation of religion’,” they declared.
The statement was issued on the website of the pan-European security organisation, the OSCE, as clear signs emerged in Geneva that Islamic states and their backers aim to get a call for a defamation ban into a key U.N. document on racism.
The experts were Frank La Rue, a Guatemalan who is the Human Rights Council’s investigator for freedom of expression, Hungarian writer Miklos Haraszti of the OSCE, South African jurist Faith Pansy Tlakula of the African Union, and Catalina Botero of the Organisation of American States.
“The concept of ‘defamation of religions’ does not accord with international standards regarding defamation, which refer to the protection of reputation of individuals,” they said.
“Religions, like all beliefs, cannot be said to have a reputation of their own,” they added. Limits on freedom of expression should only be used to bar advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred amounting to inciting violence.
Even that can be interpreted so elastically as to be dangerous.
Countries which had such limits to protect religion, they said, had often used them “to prevent legitimate criticism of powerful religious leaders and to suppress the views of religious minorities, dissenting believers and non-believers.”
The 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council — where Islamic countries backed usually by most African states, Russia, China and Cuba have a built-in majority — passes resolutions annually calling governments to act against religious defamation.
The U.N.’s General Assembly, where the same informal alliance operates on the issue, has adopted similar non-enforceable resolutions each year since 2005, although this year support for them has waned.
Islamic states say the resolutions are not aimed at imposing drastic limitations on free speech but at stopping publications like those of Danish cartoons showing the Prophet Mohammed that sparked bloody protests by Muslims in some countries.
But a discussion paper from Algeria’s envoy to the U.N. in Geneva setting out ideas to be included in a U.N. declaration on racism suggests “seriously or gratuitously offensive attacks on matters regarded as sacred by the followers of any religion” ought to be banned by any state….
Among the problems with this:
1. Who judges what are “seriously or gratuitously offensive attacks on matters regarded as sacred by the followers of any religion”? Is the manifestation of any hurt feelings grounds for censorship?
2. What assurance will the West have that discussion of the motives and goals of jihad terrorists and Islamic supremacists, rooted as they are in Islamic texts and teachings, will not be declared “seriously or gratuitously offensive” and thus banned? The Organization of the Islamic Conference has never made any distinction between genuine hate and bigotry and resistance to jihad and Islamic supremacism, and doesn’t appear to wish to do so — giving rise to the entirely justified suspicion that it is simply trying to render the West mute in the face of the jihad.