Last Wednesday, CNN’s Kitty Pilgrim reported that a coalition of 57 Islamic nations will introduce a U.N. anti-blasphemy resolution soon, perhaps as early as this month. If enacted, the resolution would require all member states to prevent defamation of Islam. In past years, the General Assembly, at the behest of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, has passed nonbinding anti-blasphemy resolutions. The last such one was adopted in December.
Of course, the Islamic nations cannot succeed in getting the U.N. to adopt a binding resolution that Christopher Hitchens has rightly called “totalitarianism defined” and “a rape and butchery of the First Amendment of our Constitution.” Therefore, we can, if we so choose, continue to ignore the antics taking place at the so-called Parliament of Man. The General Assembly, where each nation has one vote, has increasingly become a forum for extreme ideas as more developing nations have joined. Although these states are now able to form large majorities on their own, the United States, with a Security Council veto, can block the U.N. from doing any real short-term harm.
Yet the United States and the Western democracies may need to adopt a less relaxed attitude to the goings-on in the General Assembly. Why? It’s one thing for Muslims to destroy their own societies, but it’s quite another for them to destroy ours. The passage of one Islamic-sponsored resolution after another in the General Assembly is narrowing the concept of freedom around the world by creating a mood of intolerance, a mood that is even affecting the West. All we have to do is look at the plight of Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who is subject to prosecution in his own country and barred from entering the United Kingdom. And what was his offense? He made a short film linking passages in the Koran to terrorism. If Western nations won’t defend freedom of expression, who will?
So far, the United States has patiently engaged the Muslim states, trying to persuade them not to support intolerance. Sometimes, this process has met with limited success. For instance, the margin of victory in the December balloting for the anti-blasphemy resolution was narrower than it was in 2007. In 2007, the vote was 108 nations in favor, 51 against, and 25 abstaining. Last year, the tally was 86-53 with 42 abstentions. That was the first time the sum of abstentions and unfavorable votes exceeded the number of favorable ones. December’s voting was hardly a victory for tolerance, but it was nonetheless a good sign.
Yet engagement in the United Nations does not always result in success. Take this year’s anti-racism confab to be held in Geneva toward the end of next month. Known as “Durban II,” the U.N. conference promises to be a repeat of the September 2001 gathering in South Africa, which became, in the words of Claudia Rosett, “one of the UN’s more memorably ugly events.” In Durban, Colin Powell led a U.S. walk-out to protest, among other things, moves at the event to limit free expression. The Obama administration participated in preparatory events for the U.N.-sponsored hate-fest next month in Switzerland but eventually decided not to send delegates to the conference itself. Among other things, the conference’s “outcome document” urges the passage of anti-blasphemy resolutions.
We support the U.N., and the U.N. sponsors events like Durban II. So although American delegates will not be in Geneva next month, we are in fact helping others to erode our values. We may not be able to prevent the General Assembly from passing resolutions that attack our way of life — and which, incidentally, violate the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights — but we don’t have to help the forces of intolerance.
So instead of pretending that none of these U.N. conferences matter, it’s time we start defending fundamental Western values. And how do we do this? First step is to start issuing ultimatums to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. We should tell him the next time the General Assembly passes an anti-blasphemy resolution, we will refuse to make our yearly contributions until all such resolutions have been repealed. Next step is to stop attending all General Assembly meetings, including the much-watched opening session. Finally, if none of this works to get the U.N. out of the hate business, we should make it clear we will withdraw from the world body and force it to leave New York.
Is this course of action extreme? Yes, and it could lead to our isolation. Critics will say we are “shooting ourselves in the foot,” and they will undoubtedly be correct. Nonetheless, sometimes nations have to stand by their fundamental values whatever the cost, and now is one of those critical moments. After all, attacks against the notions that underpin Western society are real and gaining strength and legitimacy. So, we should not, at this time and perhaps never, participate in any organization that undermines us. The U.N. is a great idea, but the First Amendment is an even better one.