Free Speech

Leave Allah Alone!

Free speech at the U.N.


Screw you, Allah! Up yours, Buddha! Get lost, Yahweh!

Say any of the above, and you'll run afoul of the "Defamation of Religion" resolution adopted by the United Nations in December. The resolution, chiefly sponsored by Islamic countries, passed by a vote of 86 to 53, with 42 abstentions.

The measure declares that "everyone has the right to hold opinions without interference, and has the right to freedom of expression." So far, so good. Unfortunately, it goes on to say that exercising your freedom of conscience and speech "carries with it special duties and responsibilities and may therefore be subject to limitations as are provided for by law and are necessary for respect of the rights or reputations of others, protection of national security or of public order, public health or morals." Translation: Shut up if your religious beliefs annoy the government. One of the resolution's chief sponsors, Saudi Arabia, bans Bibles and churches.

The resolution urges governments to adopt "adequate protection against acts of hatred, discrimination, intimidation and coercion resulting from defamation of religions and incitement to religious hatred in general." It would proscribe, for example, the Muhammad cartoons published by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005. The United States opposed the resolution, rightly noting that "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."