For Immediate Release
Contact: Paul Fidalgo
Phone: (207) 358-9785
December 10, 2008
New York, New York (December 10, 2008)--Today we mark the sixtieth anniversary of the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and above all its affirmation of the freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and expression.
At the United Nations General Assembly meeting in Paris in December 1948 at which the Declaration was adopted, Eleanor Roosevelt told the assembled delegates: “As we bring to fruition our labors on this Declaration of Human Rights, we must at the same time rededicate ourselves to the unfinished task which lies before us.” That task was to make the Declaration “a common standard of achievement” for humanity, and it remains unfinished.
Combating "blasphemy" prohibitions at the United Nations
The Center for Inquiry is appalled that at its current session the U.N. General Assembly is adopting a resolution to combat the “defamation of religions,” which urges member states to curtail freedom of expression out of respect for religious belief, particularly Islamic belief. Since 2005, such declarations have been pushed by the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
In a forthcoming editorial, the editors of Free Inquiry magazine write, “The U.N. should be doing everything in its power to stamp out criminal prohibitions of blasphemy and apostasy in Islamic states, not lending them its moral authority.”
At the Human Rights Council’s ninth session in October, CFI participated in the debate over “defamation of religions” and released a position paper titled, “Islam and Human Rights: Defending Universality at the United Nations.” On December 12-15, CFI's Representative to the U.N., Dr. Austin Dacey, will be in the Netherlands for public discussions on the future of freedom of expression in Europe, which are already making news in the Dutch press .
Campaigning for one law for all in Britain
On December 10, CFI senior research fellow Ibn Warraq will be at the British House of Lords to participate in the launch of a campaign concerning the operation of Islamic Sharia courts in the United Kingdom.
The courts, which arbitrate civil matters such as divorce, financial disputes, and even domestic violence, now operate in five major cities. The courts are voluntary, but powerful tradition and lack of information conspire to leave no real choice for many, particularly young people and women. The purpose of the campaign is to lobby for legislation outlawing the use of religious courts to determine family law and inheritance matters, and to undertake an information campaign informing Muslim women of their family law rights under UK law.
The One Law for All Campaign against Sharia law in Britain has already received widespread support from AC Grayling; Ayaan Hirsi Ali; Bahram Soroush; Baroness Caroline Cox; Caspar Melville; Deeyah; Fariborz Pooya; Gina Khan; Houzan Mahmoud; Homa Arjomand; Ibn Warraq; Joan Smith; Johann Hari; Keith Porteous Wood; Mina Ahadi; Naser Khader; Nick Cohen; Richard Dawkins; Shakeb Isaar; Sonja Eggerickx; Stephen Law; Tarek Fatah; Tauriq Moosa; Taslima Nasrin and others.
Austin Dacey, Ph.D.
United Nations Representative
E-mail: adacey [at] centerforinquiry.net .
The Center for Inquiry/Transnational is a nonprofit, educational, advocacy, and scientific-research think tank based in Amherst, New York. Their research and educational projects focus on three broad areas: religion, ethics, and society; paranormal and fringe-science claims; and medicine and health. The Center's Web site is http://www.centerforinquiry.net/ .