UN resolution condemns 'defamation of religion'

 

GENEVA – A United Nations forum yesterday passed a resolution condemning “defamation of religion” as a human rights violation, despite wide concerns that it could be used to justify curbs on free speech in Muslim countries.

The UN Human Rights Council adopted the text, proposed by Pakistan on behalf of Islamic states, with a vote of 23 in favour, 11 against and 13 abstentions.

Western governments and a broad alliance of activist groups have voiced dismay about the religious defamation text, which adds to recent efforts to broaden the concept of human rights to protect communities of believers rather than individuals.

Pakistan, speaking for the 56-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference, said a “delicate balance” had to be struck between freedom of expression and respect for religions.

The resolution said Muslim minorities had faced intolerance, discrimination and acts of violence since the 9/11 attacks on the United States, including laws and administrative procedures that stigmatise religious followers.

The adopted text called on states to ensure that religious places, sites, shrines and symbols are protected and to reinforce laws “to deny impunity” for those exhibiting intolerance of ethnic and religious minorities.

The 47-member council has drawn criticism for reflecting mainly the interests of Islamic and African countries, which when voting together can control its agenda. – (Reuters)