UN Human Rights Council Approves Resolution on Defamation of Religions

We previously discussed the troubles for freedom of expression as seen through the UN Human Rights Council’s resolutions on defamation of religions. Freedom House had called on the council to refrain from passing further resolutions in this regard. Nevertheless on Friday, the council approved its tenth resolution calling on states to limit criticism of religions, particularly Islam (the only religion specifically cited in the text).

Paula Schriefer at CSM argues that “the resolutions contain some very appealing language, steeped in standard human rights values such as dialogue, harmony, and tolerance – all good things.” But she cautions, “don’t be fooled; the resolutions only give lip service to these values. In reality they are calling for laws and actions that prohibit dialogue by declaring certain topics off limits for discussion… For instance, criticizing the practice of polygamy or the greater weight given to the testimony of men over women in sharia law should be forbidden.”

She explains how these types of resolutions only help to further legitimize governments such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan who already have some of the worst records of respecting freedom of expression and belief. Reminding us that “human rights law was set up to protect the rights of human beings and not beliefs,” she stresses “this is the next battlefield at the UN and it is not one we should be prepared to lose.”