Leaders Plan to Revive Debate on Defamation of Religions at UN General Assembly
September 25, 2012
The divide in world opinion over what constitutes free speech will be on display again this week at the United Nations, where arguments over a proposed blasphemy law were an annual feature for the past decade. This time it’s the global reaction to a YouTube video that disparages Islam’s Prophet Muhammad that’s sure to roil the meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.
Muslim leaders have vowed to discuss the offensive video from their U.N. platforms, sowing concern among free-speech activists of a fresh push toward an international law that would criminalize blasphemy. Human rights groups and Western democracies resisted such a law for years and thought they had finally quashed the matter after convincing enough nations that repressive regimes use blasphemy laws to imprison or execute dissidents.
“I expect that we’ll regress to where we were a couple of years ago,” said Courtney C. Radsch, program manager for the Global Freedom of Expression Campaign at Freedom House, a Washington-based nonprofit group that promotes democratic values.
“Human rights are not about protecting religions; human rights are to protect humans,” Radsch said. “Who is going to be the decision-maker on deciding what blasphemy is?”
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