UN Rejects Defamation of Religion Language

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution condemning religious intolerance on Dec. 19, and it did not contain any of the language opposing the “defamation of religion” that was present in earlier documents and resolutions. Human Rights First reports:

The novelty of this text is that it does not include the harmful concept of “defamation of religions.” Instead, the General Assembly resolution calls on governments to speak out and to condemn hatred, while encouraging open debate, human rights education, and interfaith and intercultural initiatives.

The resolution marks a welcome departure from previous U.N texts. For over a decade, efforts were made in several venues at the U.N. to promote the concept that was intended to prohibit “defamation of religions.” What it did, in fact, was provide cover for abusive national blasphemy laws. Human Rights First has long argued that this concept is inconsistent with universal human rights standards that protect individuals rather than abstract ideas or religions. Indeed, blasphemy laws promote a stifling atmosphere in which governments can restrict freedom of expression, thought and religion and persecute religious minorities. Such resolutions were sponsored by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

A welcome development.

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