Questionable Motives

November 21, 2009

God needs protection from human language! Enter the UN…

Four years after cartoons of the prophet Muhammad set off violent protests across the Muslim world, Islamic nations are mounting a campaign for an international treaty to protect religious symbols and beliefs from mockery — essentially a ban on blasphemy that would put them on a collision course with free speech laws in the West.

Documents obtained by The Associated Press show that Algeria and Pakistan have taken the lead in lobbying to eventually bring the proposal to a vote in the U.N. General Assembly.

If ratified in countries that enshrine freedom of expression as a fundamental right, such a treaty would require them to limit free speech if it risks seriously offending religious believers. The process, though, will take years and no showdown is imminent.

The countries that form the 56-member Organization of the Islamic Conference are now lobbying a little-known Geneva-based U.N. committee to agree that a treaty protecting religions is necessary.

Read the rest of the article here.

1 Comment »

  1. Russell Blackford writes

    I don’t know what extra documents AP may have, since it is widely known that Pakistan has been taking the running in pushing for a UN ban on “defamation of religions”, but the analysis looks pretty good. The issue will grind on over time, but it is clear that the nations forming the Organization of the Islamic Conference have long-term plans – plans which they will pursue tenaciously – to gain the moral high ground in their own draconian restrictions on freedom of speech, and to obtain what further restrictions they can, even in the West, on speech that criticises or satirises religion. The aim is to silence serious criticism of Islam, and if that means silencing serious criticism of other religions, too … well, the OIC nations are happy to make common cause with anyone who is prepared to support their aim.

    This is an issue that we should not lose sight of. Deep concern about the implications for freedom of speech – especially for freedom of speech that criticises religious doctrines, practices, leaders, organisations, etc. – is totally appropriate. This is not just paranoia on the part of some scattered free speech advocates; it’s very serious.

    The push to ban “defamation of religion(s)” was the topic of my talk at this year’s Atheist Alliance International convention (in Los Angeles, back in October), and I’ll continue to come back to it. It’s easy even for civil rights activists to overlook the importance of this issue, and we must do what we can to make sure there is never any acquiescence from the West.

    Comment by tildeb — November 22, 2009 @ 2:48 pm | Reply

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