Islamic bloc abandons push for blasphemy ban at UN

October 18, 2012

In important but underreported news, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has abandoned its push for a global ban on blasphemy at the United Nations, according to the news outlet Reuters.

The 57-nation body wanted the General Assembly, which is currently in session, to take up a binding measure criminalizing speech critical of religion. But Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary general of the OIC, claims his outfit was unable to convince the United States or European countries to support such a proposal.

"We could not convince them," Ihsanoglu said. "The European countries don't vote with us, the United States doesn't vote with us."

If this sticks, it marks another in a string of recent victories for secularists at the UN. As you probably recall, the 193-member General Assembly had passed every year between 1999 and 2010 an OIC-backed "defamation of religion" resolution that urged member states to combat criticism of religion at home (for example, see A/HRC/RES/10/22; also see CFI's statement in opposition). While non-binding, the resolution provided cover for blasphemy and other laws that restricted the rights of religious dissidents, minorities, and nonbelievers.

However, in 2011 both the UN Human Rights Council and General Assembly dropped the defamation resolution and instead passed an action-oriented resolution that sought to protect people rather than beliefs. Also in 2011, the 
UN 
Human 
Rights
 Committee -- 
a 
panel
 of
 18
 independent experts 
who 
interpret 
and 
track application 
of 
the International Covenent on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a central treaty approved by the UN in 1966 -- 
issued 
a
 commentary that 
strongly 
condemned 
blasphemy 
laws 
and 
other 
restrictions on 
the rights to 
freedoms 
of 
belief
 and 
expression as inconsistent with international law.

The recent turmoil in majority-Muslim countries, resulting from release of the Internet video Innocence of Muslims, had prompted leaders in several countries to call upon the General Assembly to once again take up a defamation resolution, but now it appears their efforts have failed.

That said, concerned secularists should not sit back and relax. As evidenced in the Center for Inquiry's new report "Dissent Denied," many countries around the world simply international agreements and have in place blasphemy laws that punish innocent people for victimless crimes.

But also, the OIC has signaled that, instead of pushing for a blasphemy ban, it will appeal to member states to apply hate speech laws to criticism of religion. Unfortunately, support for laws that link criticism of religious ideas to hate speech can be found in Article 20 of the ICCPR, which states, "Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law." One prominent example of a country that uses laws based on this language to restrict dissent from religion is Indonesia, which is currently imprisoning Alexander Aan merely for stating on Facebook that he is an atheist. It is important that secularists actively oppose both blasphemy and incitement laws as unfair restrictions on 
the rights to 
freedoms 
of 
belief
 and 
expression.

The General Assembly meets through December, and CFI will continue to track the issue and update you if anything happens. In the meantime, you can read my previous postings on this issue here, or about all of CFI's work at the United Nations here.

Comments:

#1 Shariff Gora (Guest) on Friday October 19, 2012 at 7:08pm

Good news for secularists. All religionists, specially Islamists & Christianity should not be allowed to impose these uncivilized laws for the present civilized society.

#2 nn (Guest) on Saturday October 20, 2012 at 7:00am

rather, it is high time to tackle religions head on at UN level. All contentious issues in the name of religion which causes strife should be discussed & such evil belief must be erased from human mind. one such is kafir. second that kill kafir, use kafir women as you like… third…kill kafir…you are promised many virgins in the other world…are they not satanic? UN must take responsibility for universal education, scientific temper, universal brotherhood, treat all humans equal & let all have similar rights be it polygamy or monogamy. These issues force people to get converted just to circumvent laws. We are in a scientific era & our UN representatives must be trained with scientific temper first. Terrorism in the name of religion will be the or is the worst problem we have to tackle & then comes the health issues.

#3 Human (Guest) on Sunday October 21, 2012 at 12:08am

religion is cancer

#4 Abhilash.S (Guest) on Sunday October 21, 2012 at 3:50am

If blashphemy ,First Fire up all religious books.Put the religious leaders behind the bar.

#5 Litesp33d (Guest) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 at 1:04am

This is only temporary and for the time being.  These people will not give up and will return to this matter again and again so eternal vigilance is necessary.

It does not help matters that in a recent development in the UK which is a very NON religious country but unfortunately has unelected religious leaders sitting in its legislature (go figure. An accident of history and they will not let go).  The Prime Minister in a step to try to win Muslim votes tried to get a Muslim woman elected to our Parliament.  It failed. So by another undemocratic route got her into our second chamber so she could serve in our cabinet.  She has made a pig’s ear of everything she has touched so he made her minister for faith. 

She then immediately runs off to the UN and without any reference to the electorate or from what we can see, any other member of the Government, pledges the UK to a new cooperation agreement with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

Just thought you would like to know.

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