Freedom House has published an important alert
The basic human right to freedom of expression is increasingly under threat as countries introduce and enforce laws that have been wrongfully legitimized by numerous United Nations resolutions on “defamation of religions.” In a statement sent to the UN Human Rights Council today, Freedom House and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty strongly urged members of the council to reject any further resolutions when they meet in Geneva for the upcoming 10th Session March 2-27, and to further reject any attempts to create international instruments or mechanisms that would prohibit “defamation of religions.”
The statement explains how such resolutions directly violate international law and can encourage countries to increase the repression of religious minorities, political dissidents and human rights advocates. It points to a 2008 joint report by two UN special rapporteurs that soundly rejects the premise that the rights of religious believers are violated by merely hearing statements critical of their faith: “Defamation of religions may offend people and hurt their religious feelings but it does not necessarily or at least directly result in a violation of their rights.”
Several recent high-profile cases have highlighted the growing conflict between freedom of expression and so-called religious “defamation.” This month, Indian authorities arrested the editor and the publisher of the Statesman, after Muslims protested the newspaper reprinting an article from the United Kingdom’s Independent titled, “Why should I respect these oppressive religions?” The article decried the erosion of the right to criticize religions, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
In another case, Random House backed out of a deal last year to publish “The Jewel of Medina,” a fictional novel about one of the wives of Muhammad citing concerns that “the publication of this book might be offensive to some in the Muslim community” and that it could “incite acts of violence.” In September, Gibson Books announced it would publish the book in the United Kingdom, but the publisher’s home and office were fire bombed three weeks later. The book was eventually published in the United States by Beaufort Books.
“Although we are sympathetic to the stated goals of the resolutions of combating intolerance, racism, and religious hatred, we believe that such resolutions do not serve to achieve these goals but rather limit the ability of individuals to raise questions, concerns, and even criticisms at a time when people of all faiths need to engage in more, not less, dialogue,” said Freedom House and the Becket Fund.
You should read the alert in full, here.