Today the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a "defamation of religions" resolution by a vote of 23 yes, 11 no, 13 abstentions. While non-binding on member countries, the resolution does urge the passage of laws around the world protecting religion from criticism. UN resolutions can be influential in establishing legislation in member countries and there is concern that this resolution could give international cover to oppressive regimes to justify or strengthen legislation outlawing perceived criticism of Islam, in particular, and blasphemy laws that are often used against religious minorities, such as what we see in Pakistan (who actually proposed the resolution on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference).
Western governments and many human rights groups have expressed concern that this resolution broadens the concept of human rights to protect communities of believers and beliefs rather than individuals. Speaking in opposition to the resolution, Canada's representative Terry Cormier said, "It is individuals who have rights, not religions. Canada believes that to extend (the notion of) defamation beyond its proper scope would jeopardise the fundamental right to freedom of expression, which includes freedom of expression on religious subjects."
He is absolutely right, as we noted in an earlier blog and I am pleased that Canada has been in the forefront in opposing this resolution. However, I am concerned that Pakistan, in particular, as the sponsoring country, will use it as justification for holding on to its blasphemy law, despite the Minority Minister's promise to abolish them. I also anticipate some Islamic countries will use this resolution as justification to pressure Western governments to crack down on free speech that they see as anti-Islamic. I also wouldn't be surprised to see Muslim special interest groups in Canada and elsewhere in the West attempt to use this resolution as supporting documentation for pushing for prosecution of those whom they see as expressing anti-Islamic views.
Isn't it ironic that a human rights council's resolution could actually be used as justification to violate the rights of others? This UN council has really gone off of the rails. Actually, it is doubtful that it was ever on the rails to begin with.