Mar 28 2009
UN RESOLUTION makes it illegal to criticize Islam
GENEVA (AP) — The U.N.’s top human-rights body approved a proposal backed by Muslims nations Thursday urging the passage of laws around the world protecting religion from criticism.
The proposal by Pakistan had drawn strong criticism from free-speech campaigners and liberal democracies.
A simple majority of 23 members of the 47-nation Human Rights Council voted in favor of the resolution. Eleven mostly Western nations opposed it and 13 countries abstained.
The resolution urges states to provide “protection against acts of hatred, discrimination, intimidation and coercion resulting from defamation of religions and incitement to religious hatred in general.”
“It is individuals who have rights and not religions,” said Canadian diplomat Terry Cormier. Canada’s criticism was echoed by European Union countries, all of which voted against the proposal.
The council is dominated by Muslim and African countries. Muslim nations have argued that religions, in particular Islam, must be shielded from criticism in the media and other areas of public life. They cited cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad as an example of unacceptable free speech.
“Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism,” the resolution said. (HAH!)
A coalition of more than 100 secular and faith groups had called on governments to oppose the resolution, warning that it could lead to accusations of defamation among different faiths.
The United States did not vote on the resolution because it is not a member of the council. The Bush administration announced it was virtually giving up on the body and would participate in debates only if absolutely necessary because of the council’s anti-Israel statements and its failure to act on abuses in Sudan and elsewhere. (But watch Obama jump on board)
India, which normally votes along with the council’s majority of developing nations, abstained in protest at the fact that Islam was the only religion specifically named as deserving protection.
India’s Ambassador Gopinathan Achamkulangare said the resolution “inappropriately” linked religious criticism to racism.
FREE SPEECH UNDER SIEGE: A discussion about a proposal at the U.N. that would force member nations to adopt policies restricting criticism of Islam.
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