News

Defamation of Religion resolution finally dropped at the United Nations

A 12-year campaign by Islamic countries to have religion protected from “defamation” via a series of United Nations resolutions finally came off the rails yesterday when Western countries and their Latin American allies – strong opponents of the defamation concept – joined Muslim and African states in backing a new approach that switches the focus from protecting beliefs to protecting believers.

Since 1998, the 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) had won majority approval in the UN Human Rights Council and at the United Nations General Assembly for a series of resolutions to “combat defamation of religion”.

But critics said the concept ran against international law and free speech, and left the way open for draconian blasphemy laws like those in Pakistan.

They argued that it also allowed states where one religion predominates to keep religious minorities under tight control or even leave them open to forced conversion or oppression.

However, Pakistan, which speaks for the OIC in the rights council, had argued that such protection against defamation was essential to defend Islam, and other religions, against criticism that caused offence to ordinary believers.

Pakistan’s stance had very little support from other countries.

A study conducted in 2009 showed that majorities in 13 of 20 nations polled around the world supported the right to criticise a religion.

Support for the right to criticise religion was strongest in the United States, at 89 percent. Chile was next with 82 percent support, followed by Mexico (81 percent), Britain (81 percent), Germany (76 percent), Poland (68 percent), Azerbaijan (67 percent), France (66 percent), Russia (61 percent), South Korea (59 percent), Turkey (54 percent), Kenya (54 percent), and Ukraine (53 percent).

In addition, 68 percent of Taiwanese and 81 percent in Hong Kong believed that criticism of religion should be a right.

35 Responses to “Defamation of Religion resolution finally dropped at the United Nations”

  1. JohnMWhite says:

    This is good news, but I am actually rather surprised at some of the results on the poll. The US is far more supportive of the idea than I imagined, and I wonder if the way the question was asked perhaps tipped their hand in regard to this particular issue being about Muslim countries trying to prevent the disparaging of religion, or if the question was asked exactly as shown, perhaps it is the whole ‘government’ thing that tipped people. It certainly does not feel like a place where only 11% feel their particular faith is unimpeachable, but perhaps I am being too cynical. France and Germany, meanwhile, had much lower support for the idea of freedom to criticise a religion than I thought they would.

  2. Carasek says:

    Many of my friends who would find describe themselves as non-religious find critical discussions about particular religions uncomfortable, more so perhaps than those I know who are religious. One member of a secular group I subscribe to has even suggested that we need to promote secularism without resorting to criticising the beliefs or practices of the religious, which I think is essentially pointless.

    But i digress. A rare moment of (limited) common sense, though it rather depends on what is entailed by “protecting believers’”.

  3. I too am pleasantly surprised by the results of this poll, especially those of the USA. I am even more pleased at Chile’s result, I had no idea. Nevertheless, it is reassuring news that the OIC have dropped this campaign but I fear that it will not make the least bit of difference to those that do not submit to the dominant religion of these countries.

    Likewise, the final sentence of the Reuters, article linked above, nicely affirms my second fear, that “diplomats from Islamic countries have warned the council that they could return to campaigning for an international law against religious defamation if Western countries are not seen as acting to protect believers.”

    Somehow, I don’t think this will be the last we hear from the OIC on this matter. Finally, I wonder if they have considered the protection of non-believers in their deliberations?

  4. AngieRS says:

    Good stuff but I’m very surprised the US came top of the tree. Even more that the UK came fourth with two very catholic states second and third.

  5. Harry says:

    The claim that a religion needs protection from defamation already defames that religion.

  6. thedfiles says:

    Here’s the scary thing:
    India – 59% believe the government should have the right to penalise criticism of religion. Only 33% think it should not. This is a secular country remember.
    Nigeria – 54% believe the government should police religious criticism.
    Egypt – 71% (!)
    Iraq – 57%

    Now we could argue that this is because all of the above have suffered from communal or sectarian violence and hence are keen to let sleeping dogs lie. The wishful thinking is that by preventing religious criticism, the violent elements of every religion will live harmoneously with other religions and non-religious people.

    Would that were so…

  7. Stuart H. says:

    Not really too suprising if the US was up at the top despite so many fundies if you think it through. For one thing, without freedom to criticise other people’s religion the evangelists would be out of a job with nobody to convert in other sinful countries which just happen to be getting a bit more spending power as the home market diminishes! For another, freedom of speech is almost a US article of faith itself. See the protection of Fred Phelps and his right to picket funerals however much he upsets grieving relatives, and compare that to the UK reaction when some beardy wierdo burns a poppy. They also put a stop to UK libel tourism by disgruntled Yanks, so fair play to them.

  8. Daz says:

    Over all it’s better than I’d have thought ‘twould be. Anyone got any idea why Taiwan and Hong Kong were excluded from the average? I’d try ‘n’ find out myself but I’m knackered, plus I’m knee deep in a blog-post that ran away from me.

  9. David Anderson says:

    How a country like Pakistan can be on any council that considers human rights is beyond my comprehension. I don´t know how they have the audacity to argue that “such protection against defamation was essential to defend Islam, and other religions, against criticism that caused offence to ordinary believers.” considering the recent events in their country. Kudos to Azerbaijan and (just) Turkey.

  10. Marcus says:

    Of course religion should be open to criticism. But you can bet your bottom dollar that the vast majority of Americans in particular want it that way so they can pillory the competition with impunity rather than because they believe in the freedom of speech.

  11. barriejohn says:

    I, too, have a feeling that many Americans saw this as merely a question of their right to criticise Islam (Christianity obviously being the true faith). However, they do make a lot of their right to freedom of speech, so one mustn’t be too cynical!

  12. NeoWolfe says:

    StuH said:

    “See the protection of Fred Phelps and his right to picket funerals however much he upsets grieving relatives”

    Get out of my brain!!!! If psycho horseshit like that is protected, then who is qualified to prevent the Jim Jones’s, and the Marshall Applewhite’s and the the Al Queda’s of the world? If an individual was provided the right to believe in any myth they want, but prevented from forming an organization to promote and proselytize that idea, on the surface, it might seem to solve a lot of problems. But, how long would it be until atheists would be similarly restricted, especially since they tend to “believe” that the universe is an accident, a premise unsubstantiated by science. Starting with “A” it may be at the top of the list. Oh, and next, political parties with religious affiliations. Slippery slide to hell.

    The founding fathers of America got that one thing right (under the indictment of slavery) that humans are inherently naive and ignorant, and the only way we are going to work it out, is by open and honest discussion. I have seen a very detailed painting of Muhammed buttfucking a goat, and of course the bomb turbin, and his skinny old ass holding hands with Aisha holding a doll. I found it entertaining, and appropriate relevent statements about Islam’s claim to beautiful peace. And I have no intentions of holding my tongue, either.

    Some western-style countries have passed laws preventing insults to another’s religion, and I understand they are trying to prevent civil unrest, but as far as I am concerned, they can go fuck themselves. What will really prevent civil upheaval is shedding our delusions and superstitions. Accomodating those delusions, only prolongs human suffering. But it works nicely for the clergy and their collection plates.

    NeoWolfe

  13. Robster says:

    Just how do you quantify “offense”? Ask a dozen different people what offends them and you’ll get a dozen different answers. Seems that any critisism of religion offends those of that nature and that’s because they really now it’s complete nonsense and are scared that critisism may let the cat out of the bag.

  14. tony e says:

    NeoWolfe:

    ” Yawn ”

  15. NeoWolfe says:

    Tony e said:

    ” Yawn ”

    That’s something you do before you go to sleep. Obviously you are deep in REM. Try wiggling your eyes.

    NeoWolfe

    PS Lame argument, psuedofreethinker.

  16. tony e says:

    NeoWolfe

    I admire you.

    You are the only person I know who can be predictably
    boring 24/7.

    ”Yawn”

  17. NeoWolfe says:

    tony e,

    I think you need a nights sleep until your post makes some sort of sense.

    NeoWolfe

  18. stargraves says:

    “…especially since they tend to “believe” that the universe is an accident, a premise unsubstantiated by science”

    OK I’ll bite – despite you not yet getting what the freethinker magazine is about!

    WTF? So Atheists are all meant to think the universe is an accident – How so? And where does all of science sit on this matter?

  19. Marcus says:

    What was I saying about delusions of superiority?

  20. tony e says:

    @Stargraves,

    The way I read ‘tend to “believe” that the universe is an accident’ is as oppossed to what? Does he mean Intelligent Design?

    ID – that well known, 100% accurate, version of how life came be on earth? The earth which, apparently, is a mere 5000 years old. Ken Ham has said this is a fact so it must be.

    Sarcastic rant over.

    I must think positive thoughts…………

  21. NeoWolfe says:

    Tony e,

    When I read “yes, no, probably not” I thought I was listening to a genuine freethinker. When I exposed what “probably not” means, you took it as an insult. Well, yes, you are right about yourself, it means the possibility of ID until such time as science explains how something came from nothing. But, ID is not the possession of mythology, as you imply. Mythology is witchdoctors and conmen selling an idea to uneducated people. ID is a possibility you have already admitted, that science is yet to eliminate.

    You debate poorly.

    NeoWolfe

  22. Marcus says:

    NW – I’m sorry, but I’m getting so very, very bored of your inane rantings. You really are a complete and utter tosser.

    If, as is seemingly the case, you disagree with the views of so many of the people who contribute to this site, why don’t you just go away find one that fits with your bizarre view of the world? And instead of constantly berating us all for being somehow inferior to your ludicrously massive intellect and not conforming to your view of atheism, just fuck off to another site where your stupendous IQ will fit right in.

    After all, it’s obviously making you unhappy being here, and quite frankly your presence here is doing my head in big time.

    But then, my head is so very, very small compared to yours, isn’t it, Neo?

  23. Daz says:

    NeoWolfe:

    Suggestion 1: Follow Marcus’s advice.

    Suggestion 2: If you simply must continue this, think about it, before lecturing us from your dizzying intellectual heights.

    ID claims a ‘supernatural’ component to the universe. Fine. Define ‘supernatural’ and a method of detecting it, testing it, and working out how it affects us.

    If we can’t do those things then we can’t show that it exists and we most certainly can’t assign any meaningful properties to it. Therefore, we can’t make any statements or predictions about how it will effect us, here in the natural universe that it’s outside of. In fact, given that it’s — by definition — ‘outside nature’, we can’t even know that it can effect us, here inside nature.

    So even if we concede its existence, based on logic-twisting and gut-feelings, we have no idea whatsoever what to do about it, or even if there’s anything we can do about it. In which case we might as well shut the fuck up about it and get on with our lives.

  24. SmilingAhab says:

    @NeoWolfe
    “the universe is an accident, a premise unsubstantiated by science”

    Actually, string theory got a big boost because of this – they modelled what would happen if two 11-dimdensional branes collided, and what they found at the collision point was a humongous blast of energy that unfolded 4 dimensions into a hypersphere which behaved almost identically to our universe. Gotta give props to a theory that can mathematically explain the Big Bang. Shame we don’t have the 11-dimensional technology to prove it, and probably never will.

    As for ID, its scientific legitimacy was stricken down in court. One could continue on the assumption that it COULD be true because there’s no evidence that it’s not, but such reasoning is circular, and therefore not consistent with the scientific method. Also, I question the legitimacy of the entire movement seeing as the entire thing was based on the Discovery Institute’s work, which has been found out to be just a Christian PR firm when their Wedge Strategy, and since the document shows, without a doubt, that ID is just creationism gussied up for the 21st century, there can be no scientific, or even moral legitimacy to this ploy to destroy skeptical inquiry tempered by the scientific method. As Carl Sagan once said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence – not circular sophistry.

  25. SmilingAhab says:

    I should add to my previous post between “prove it,” and “and probably never will.”, the term ‘physically’, because, as with climate change science, those that don’t respect skeptical inquiry and cannot be humble before the facts do not respect mathematical modeling even when the results line up with observable behavior – which is at the core of observational experiments.

  26. Thoreau says:

    This place is turning into a primary school. I do think this puts people off, this long running squabbling.

  27. Joe Martin says:

    I wonder what NW would think of that painting of Jesus butt-fucking an altar boy, with the Pope off to the side taking pictures?

  28. Lucy says:

    Yes, I was going to comment but lost the will to live by the time I had got half way down…but that probably just shows my lack of stamina and commitment probably.

  29. Daz says:

    Sorry! My fault for posting whilst drinking. Doesn’t usually affect me like that.

  30. NeoWolfe says:

    Tony e, Marcus, Daz,

    When I was a kindergartener, when I won an argument, I heard “you suck” and “go away”. Surprising to hear that here as an alternative to an intelligent counter argument.

    But, for what it’s worth, I intend to stay until Bduke bans me for blasphemy against your religion.

    NeoWolfe

  31. stargraves says:

    @NW – What religion? *Facepalms for the thousandth time at reading one of your posts*

    On this site we have nothing in common beyond a healthy disdain for religion. Or any BS in general in my case.

    I’m all for debate and discussion – but you have to have a point, rather than merely throwing in nonsensical one liners. Look up atheist and freethinker in a dictionary perhaps.

    Is not collecting stamps a hobby? Is bald a hairstyle?

    Is not being religious a religion? No. Of course not. Unless you are deliberately being a dick.

  32. Maggie says:

    If only I thought the UN had the balls to stick to this. *sigh*

  33. NeoWolfe says:

    stargraves said:

    “On this site we have nothing in common beyond a healthy disdain for religion”

    Actually, I think I hate it much more than you do. Hard to quantify, but while I strictly obstain from religion, i.e., refusal to believe in anything unproven by science, your faith leeps to conclusions that the uninverse is an accident. I’m not calling you wrong, but, if you leap to that conclusion without conclusive evidence, you are as guilty of religion as wicca or caballa or voodoo. Unworthy of scientists.

    NeoWolfe

  34. stargraves says:

    @NW – You probably do hate it more than I do! I think that sadly, there are a lot of uneducated who are probably too stupid to cope without it – or too selfishly evil. Unfortunately.

    It’s like people who listen to RnB – I don’t think they should be put to death, rather, it should be kept in their own homes and out of the way so as not to pollute minds.

    Religion has a place (not quite sure where exactly – but the sun don’t shine…) – but it’s not in public office passing laws based on fairy tales and decreeing hate, spreading lies, and retarding scientific progress.

    As I’ve mentioned previously, I am an artist not a scientist – though I do read. I never claimed the universe began by “accident” – I simply don’t know – but I can’t agree that positing some intelligence behind the big bang – isn’t a far greater leap of faith.

    I think its more “natural” – than accidental – just like evolution is not driven by “chance” rather an enormous number of contributing factors.

    And don’t diss Wicca – nothing wrong with respecting the natural environment of the planet and females. That makes it light-years more advanced than the abrahamic death cults for a start!

    What are your beliefs regarding the beginning of time then – as on these comment threads you only ever seem to either relate anecdotes of personal tragedy, or tell us what we believe in, or just basically condescend to us “freethinkers” on here?

    :o)

  35. The results of that pole are incredibly one dimensional. The US likely only scores so high because of Christian fundamentalists who want the right to criticize Islam and who also falsely believe that their own religion is protected under the constitution. The very concept of ‘criticism’ is likely so wide that any 12 theists would be likely to define it in at least 18 different ways. It’s good to hear that the UN has tabled the issue, at least for the time being.