The Bush administration Friday (Sept 19, 2008) strongly denounced Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) efforts at the United Nations to pass “defamation of religions” resolutions that undermine free speech and inter-religious dialogue, and lead to the criminalization of blasphemy laws.
“[W]e are concerned by efforts to promote a so-called defamation of religions concept, which has been the focus of numerous resolutions passed at the United Nations. Instead of protecting religious practice and promoting tolerance, this concept seeks to limit freedom of speech and that could undermine the standards of international religious freedom,” said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Friday on the release of the US State Department’s release of the 2008 Report on International Religious (click here).
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has been in the forefront of groups actively opposing “defamation of religions” resolutions, said the U.S. government opposition to “defamation of religions” resolutions is welcome.
“The Bush administration has been working on this issue behind the scenes for sometime. This very strong public stand opposing the resolutions, while the General Assembly is in session, indicates the seriousness of the issue,” said Bennett Graham, International Programs Officer of the Becket Fund. “The Becket Fund heartily applauds Secretary Rice, Ambassador John Hanford and the Office of International Religious Freedom at the State Department for their opposition to the defamation resolution and for pushing this issue off the back burner and into the forefront of international diplomatic concerns.”
Mr. Graham said that he hoped President Bush would repeat the administration’s opposition to “defamation of religions” resolutions, when he addresses the General Assembly this week.
Ambassador Hanford laid out the dangers of the defamation of religions resolution in his remarks:
“We take issue with efforts by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and its members like Pakistan and Egypt, in promoting the problematic concept of defamation of religions at the United Nations,” he said. “This flawed concept seeks to weaken the freedoms of religion and expression by restricting the rights of individuals to share their views or criticize religions; in particular, Islam. The OIC’s approach to defamation of religions is inconsistent with international human rights law, and is an attempt to export the blasphemy laws found in several OIC countries to the international level.”
The Becket Fund, which has consultative status at the United Nations, has submitted legal analysis to the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights on defamation of religion resolutions (click here).