GENEVA (Reuters) – A United Nations forum on Thursday 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 U.N. Human Rights Council adopted the non-binding text, proposed by Pakistan on behalf of Islamic states, with a vote of 23 states in favor and 11 against, with 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 Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said a “delicate balance” had to be struck between freedom of expression and respect for religions.
Yes, and in civilized societies where respect for individual liberty actually means something, that balance is decidedly, heavily, and decisively in favor of freedom of expression, as some members of the panel seemed to recognize:
Addressing the body, Germany said on behalf of the European Union that while instances of Islamophobia, Christianophobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of religious discrimination should be taken seriously, it was “problematic to reconcile the notion of defamation (of religion) with the concept of discrimination.”
“The European Union does not see the concept of defamation of religion as a valid one in a human rights discourse,” it said. “The European Union believes that a broader, more balanced and thoroughly rights-based text would be best suited to address the issues underlying this draft resolution.”
India and Canada also took to the floor of the Geneva-based Council to raise objections to the OIC text. Both said the text looked too narrowly at the discrimination issue.
“It is individuals who have rights, not religions,” Ottawa’s representative told the body. “Canada believes that to extend (the notion of) defamation beyond its proper scope would jeopardize the fundamental right to freedom of expression, which includes freedom of expression on religious subjects.”
Given Canada’s own problems with respecting freedom of expression, those comments are somewhat ironic, but welcome nonetheless, especially considering the make up of this so-called “Human Rights” commission:
Why does the world take a body seriously that calls itself the “UN Human Rights Council” that has Nigeria as its president and includes such members as Egypt, Russia, Cuba, China, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan? Isn’t this really letting the fox guard the henhouse?
Perhaps, or perhaps it’s just another example in favor of my hypothesis that when it comes to defending individual liberty, the United Nations is worthless.