Northern Light

Free Speech Is No Offense II

Human beings have human rights, religions and ideas don’t.

The British newspaper the Observer reports that Pakistan has informed the British High Commissioner in Pakistan, Robert Brinkley, that giving knighthood to Salman Rushdie, author the Satanic Verses, was against the spirit of UN resolution 1624 passed by the Security Council in September 2005.
This piece of news sheds additional light on the strategy of Pakistan and other members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) which since 1999 have been working hard to make the fight against defamation of religion part of international law.
According to the Observer resolution 1624 calls on member states to ”enhance dialogue and broaden understanding” as a means to preventing ”the indiscriminate targeting of religions and cultures”.
In fact, this is just a small and insignificant part of the resolution, and it has very little to do with its spirit. It’s focusing on how to combat terror, ”condemning in the strongest terms all acts of terrorism”, ”condemning also in the strongest terms the incitement of terrorist acts and repudiating attemts at the justification and glorification of terrorist acts,” and so it goes on and on until the passage quoted by the Observer shows up in one of the last paragraphs.
It’s clear that the Pakistani minister of religious affairs’ justifying suicide terror in order to protect the prophet of Islam is incitement to violence, and, hopefully, the British has made it clear to the Pakistani government that their apprehensive conduct in this matter is undermining the spirit of resolution 1624.
Unfortunately, the IOC has a very strange understanding of human rights. Since 1999 it has worked systematically within international institutions to undermine the legacy of the Enligthenment and the concept of individual rights, that makes it clear that individuals, not ideas, have human rights. The IOC has insisted on including phrases and paragraphs in UN documents to prevent any criticism of Islam at home and abroad.

The following is from a recent analysis by the International Humanist and Ethical Union about ”How the Islamic states dominate the UN Human Rights Council”:

”Every year from 1999 to 2005 the Organization of the Islamic Conference, representing the 57 Islamic states, presented a resolution to the UN Commission on Human Rights [0], called “Combating Defamation of Religions”. While the text of the resolution referred to all religions the preamble made it clear that the sponsors’ concerns related primarily to one religion: Islam. The resolution was adopted every year by typically a two thirds majority. By 2005, the Commission for Human Rights [0] had become widely discredited. In the words of then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan “.. the selectivity and politicizing of its activities [were] in danger of bringing the entire UN system into disrepute”. The Commission was abolished by vote of the UN General Assembly in 2006 and replaced by a shiny new Human Rights Council which met for the first time in March 2006. Hopes were soon dashed however that the newly elected 47 member states of the Council – each pledged to uphold international human rights law – would behave any differently from the 53 members of the old Commission. Of the first four resolutions passed by the Council, three were resolutions condemning Israel. Whatever breaches of human rights law Israel may have committed, it beggars belief that these were the only violations of human rights on the planet worthy of condemnation by the Council. By way of contrast, the Council adopted a resolution which inter-alia congratulated the Sudan for its efforts to bring peace to Darfur.”

The IHEU also comments on the infamous resolution of March 30 “Combating Defamation of Religion” that was inspired by the publication of the Mohammed cartoons in Jyllands-Posten. Among other things the resolution urges states to provide legal and constitutional protection against defamation of religion, i.e. the UN Human Rights Council calls on states to silence any criticism of religion.

“First, the resolution fails to define “defamation”. It is a catch-all term intended to silence any criticism of religious practice or of laws based on religion – however pernicious. Secondly, it attempts to limit certain rights, including the right to freedom of expression, guaranteed under international human rights law. Thirdly, it fails to distinguish between religions and their followers. To criticize any aspect of Islam, for example, is seen as an attack on Muslims. “

“And how are we to define defamation? Are we no longer to be permitted to condemn misogyny, homophobia, or calls to kill – if they are made in the name of religion? Are we obliged to respect religious practices that we find offensive? Is lack of respect for such practices to be considered a crime? Are ideas, are religions now to be accorded human rights? Surely, when religion invades the public domain it becomes an ideology like any other, and must be open to criticism as such. To deny the claims of religion is neither defamation nor blasphemy.”