Thursday, March 05, 2009

Religions don't have rights - people do

islam2It isn't often that I agree with avowedly atheist Christopher Hitchens.  But I think that he understands better than most the threat posed by recent attempts by the Organization of the Islamic Conference to push through the nonbinding U.N. Resolution 62/154, on "Combating defamation of religions," which would extend  human rights protections not only to individuals but to religions themselves, thereby protecting religions (and especially Islam) from criticism by others.   In a recent piece in Slate.com, Hitchens writes,

If there sometimes seems to be something implicitly absolutist or even totalitarian in such a claim, it may result not from a fundamentalist reading of the holy book but from the religion itself. And it is the so-called mainstream Muslims, grouped in the Organization of the Islamic Conference, who are now demanding through the agency of the United Nations that Islam not only be allowed to make absolutist claims but that it also be officially shielded from any criticism of itself.

Though it is written tongue-in-cheek in the language of human rights and of opposition to discrimination, the nonbinding U.N. Resolution 62/154, on "Combating defamation of religions," actually seeks to extend protection not to humans but to opinions and to ideas, granting only the latter immunity from being "offended." The preamble is jam-packed with hypocrisies that are hardly even laughable....

Some will argue that this concern is all a bunch of fear-mongering.  After doesn'tislam Paragraph 10 affirm that the everyone has the right to hold opinions without prejudice and the right to freedom of expression?  Yes, but then it backtracks in the same paragraph by saying that "the exercise of these rights 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 and respect for religions and beliefs."   And that is the crux of the matter. Hitchens understands the ramifications when he says, "the thought buried in this awful, wooden prose is as ugly as the language in which it is expressed: Watch what you say, because our declared intention is to criminalize opinions that differ with the one true faith. Let nobody say that they have not been warned."

1 comment:

Esther MacDonald said...

What a slippery slope to start down.