Geneva, March 11, 2009 — A new U.N. resolution circulated today by Islamic states would define any questioning of Islamic dogma as a human rights violation, intimidate dissenting voices, and encourage the forced imposition of Sharia law. (See full U.N.)
UN Watch obtained a copy of the Pakistani-authored proposal after it was distributed today among Geneva diplomats attending the current session of the UN Human Rights Council. Entitled "Combating defamation of religions," it mentions only Islam.
While non-binding, the resolution constitutes a dangerous threat to free speech everywhere. It would ban any perceived offense to Islamic sensitivities as a "serious affront to human dignity" and a violation of religious freedom, and would pressure U.N. member states -- at the "local, national, regional and international levels" -- to erode free speech guarantees in their "legal and constitutional systems."
It's an Orwellian text that distorts the meaning of human rights, free speech, and religious freedom, and marks a giant step backwards for liberty and democracy worldwide.
The first to suffer will be moderate Muslims in the countries that are behind this resolution, like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan, who seek international legitimacy for state-sanctioned blasphemy laws that stifle religious freedom and outlaw conversions from Islam to other faiths.
Next to suffer from this U.N.-sanctioned McCarthyism will be writers and journalists in the democratic West, with the resolution targeting the media for the "deliberate stereotyping of religions, their adherents and sacred persons."
Ultimately, it is the very notion of individual human rights at stake, because the sponsors of this resolution seek not to protect individuals from harm, but rather to shield a specific set of beliefs from any question, debate, or critical inquiry.
The resolution's core premise -- that "defamation of religion" exists as legal concept -- is a distortion. The law on defamation protects the reputations of individuals, not beliefs. It also requires an examination of the truth or falsity of the challenged remarks -- a determination that no one, especially not the UN, is capable of undertaking concerning any religion.
Tragically, given that Islamic states completely dominate the Human Rights Council, with the support of non-democratic members like Russia, China, and Cuba, adoption of the regressive resolution is a forgone conclusion. E.U. diplomats hope at best to win over a handful of wavering Latin American states to the dissenting side.