Thursday, November 27, 2008

Freedom from speech

The online version of Forward published an excellent editorial yesterday on the recent UN resolution "Combating Defamation of Religions" that passed in the Third Committee earlier this week:

The United Nations saw another shred of its tattered dignity stripped away November 24, when a committee of the General Assembly approved what amounts to a direct assault on Western liberal democracy. In an 85-50 vote, with 42 abstaining, the so-called Third Committee adopted a resolution, submitted by a caucus of Islamic nations, to criminalize expressions deemed to be “defamation of religion,” with special concern for Islam. All U.N. member states would be called on to amend their criminal codes accordingly. The measure’s next stop is the General Assembly, where it is expected to win handily, probably in December.

The U.N. is no stranger to assaults on decency and common sense. Indeed, the new ban on religious defamation is essentially a restatement of a measure approved by the General Assembly last year but barely noticed at the time.

What makes this year’s resolution different, and more dangerous, is that it is supposed to move on from the General Assembly to another forum, where it might acquire real teeth.... read more.

While technically non-binding on member nations, Bennett Graham, international program director of Becket Fund, suggests that this resolution, "provides international cover for domestic anti-blasphemy laws, and there are a number of people who are in prison today because they have been accused of committing blasphemy. Those arrests are made legitimate by the UN body's (effective) stamp of approval."

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