Monday, October 5, 2009

What's in a phrase?

The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has for years been trying to gain international acceptance for the concept of 'religious defamation': that freedom of speech cannot be used to scrutinize or criticize a religion (Islam).

Having joined the UN Human Rights Council, the United States sponsored a resolution on freedom of speech that aimed to find a compromise between the Islamic nations and the West. That resolution just passed unanimously. Egypt, a country notorious for suppressing free speech, was the co-sponsor.

According to the CNS News report: "The resolution drops the phrase 'religious defamation' but refers to “negative racial and religious stereotyping,” and condemns any advocacy of “religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.” It urges governments to “address and combat such incidents,” in line with their obligations under international law.

Anne Bayefsky, in her analysis, criticizes the Obama administration for 'backing calls for limits on freedom of expression.' She says that 'other Western governments ... watched the weeks of negotiation with dismay as it became clear that American negotiators wanted consensus at all costs.'

Indeed, the 'compromise' language looks like it creates the proverbial hole big enough to drive a truck through. Such an outcome is definitely not in the U.S. interest.

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