Totalitarianism at the U.N.

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.