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U.S. opposes bid to bar religious defamation

Posted in News by Skepdude on October 28, 2009

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT MSNBC.COM

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration on Monday came out strongly against efforts by Islamic nations to bar the defamation of religions, saying the moves would restrict free speech.

“Some claim that the best way to protect the freedom of religion is to implement so-called anti-defamation policies that would restrict freedom of expression and the freedom of religion,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters. “I strongly disagree.”

Clinton said the United States was opposed to negative depictions of specific faiths and would always fight against belief-based discrimination. But she said a person’s ability to practice their religion was entirely unrelated to another person’s right to free speech.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT MSNBC.COM

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Religious Persecution Wolf in Anti-Defamation Sheep’s Clothing

Posted in News by Skepdude on March 30, 2009

The Inquisition is back, and this time it has set up shop at the United Nations. Consider the resolution “Combating the Defamation of Religions” passed by a comfortable margin last week at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva (and passed by the General Assembly every year since 2005).

The resolution decries a “campaign of defamation of religions,” intensifying since 2001, in which “the media” and “extremist organizations” are “perpetuating stereotypes about certain religions” (read: Islam) and “sacred persons” (read: Muhammad). It urges UN member states to provide redress “within their respective legal and constitutional systems.” Capitalizing on cartoon riots and Western anxieties over the excesses of the war on terror, the language conflates peaceful criticism of Islam with anti-Muslim bigotry and seeks to stifle speech in the name of “respect for religions and beliefs.”

In my capacity as UN representative for the secularist think tank Center for Inquiry, I spent a surreal two weeks at the Council participating in the negotiations over the language of this resolution, sponsored by a 57-member intergovernmental body called the Organization of the Islamic Conference, or OIC.

After one of these sessions, I found my way into a private conversation with the chair of the negotiations, a delegate for the government of Pakistan. We were soon joined by the representatives of the United States, Canada, and the European Union. There we were, “the West,” standing at the front of an empty conference room, gingerly trying to reason with this feisty, yet solicitous, Pakistani diplomat.

The American delegate noted that, “History shows that criminalizing speech doesn’t work,” when the chair interrupted her to propose a case he hoped would hit home. Suppose someone were to say that the Virgin Mary was not a virgin but a promiscuous woman? What could be the purpose of this statement, he asked, except mockery?

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “RELIGION DISPATCHES”