For over a decade, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference has fought to make “defamation of religion” a crime. They wanted to punish you for blaspheming God, Allah, Islam, or a whole host of other religious beliefs some group holds sacred. We already know how much chaos ensued over cartoons featuring Muhammad.
So much for free speech.
But a new resolution from the United Nations Human Rights Council rightly puts the focus on defending people instead of their beliefs:
The new three-page resolution, which emerged after discussions between U.S. and Pakistani diplomats in recent weeks, recognises that there is “intolerance, discrimination and violence” aimed at believers in all regions of the world. Omitting any reference to “defamation”, it condemns any advocacy of religious hatred that amounts to incitement to hostility or violence against believers and calls on governments to act to prevent it.
Here’s the full resolution (PDF) on “Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence, and violence against persons based on religion or belief.”I don’t know how much effect this resolution will have — does anyone think mockery of Allah will now go by unnoticed in the Islamic world? — but we should welcome any resolution defending criticism of religion.
Blasphemy is a victimless crime, after all.
What’s the next step?
Leonard Leo, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, puts the target on countries that still punish religious critics:
… this new resolution recognizes that religious intolerance is best fought through efforts to encourage respect for every individual’s human rights, not through national or international anti-blasphemy laws. What is needed now is for countries, such as Pakistan, that have blasphemy laws to eliminate them.”
(Thanks to Antonio for the link!)