A "Defamation of Religion" resolution sponsored chiefly by Islamic nations passed yesterday in the United Nations General Assembly by a vote of of 86 in favor, 53 against and 42 abstentions. It declares that governments should:
"adequate protection against acts of hatred, discrimination, intimidation and coercion resulting from defamation of religions and incitement to religious hatred in general."
A specific example of "acts of hatred" that should be outlawed was the publication by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten of some of these cartoons of Mohammed:
The passage of this resolution properly alarmed free speech advocates. According to United Press International, Angela C. Wu, international law director of the Washington-based Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, declared:
"The 'defamation of religions' resolution is a direct violation of the United Nations' mandate to protect religious freedom, as peaceful religious speech -- a manifestation of belief -- will be silenced as a result of it…
"We are deeply disturbed that (the) resolution has given cover to oppressive governments to persecute dissenters. Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan, Christians in Orissa, India, and Baha'is in Iran have one more reason to fear for their lives as the U.N. lends legitimacy to the criminalization of their peaceful speech."
"States have no place determining what is and is not blasphemy."
The U.S. State Department notes that the "Defamation of Religion" resolution started out in 1999 as a "Defamtion of Islam" resolution introduced by Pakistan. Some salient points from the State Department's 2007 response to this noxious resolution:
The United States does not believe it should be illegal to express an opinion on a particular religion, including those which are highly critical. These resolutions carve out a special status for Islam, above concerns for other religions, and infringe on basic freedom of speech rights, such as the right to state opinions, publish books and articles, and freely express views in other ways which may be critical of religions. The U.S. Constitution would not permit any international agreement or treaty purporting to prohibit unpopular opinions and viewpoints to have legal effect in the United States…
The United States is deeply concerned with the use of the concept of "defamation of religions" to justify torture, imprisonment, abuse, and even issue execution orders against individuals and religious groups who do not subscribe to a particular "state" religion, or who wish to convert to another religion according to their conscience. The defamation of religions concept has also been promulgated into national legal systems in order to halt any public comment or dissent against political figures, and is now being promoted at the international level to promote and justify blasphemy laws in some countries. The United States believes that the employment of this concept jeopardizes freedom of religion, expression, assembly, association, and press.