You have to ask yourself, what does the West stand for? What does the US stand for? If not free speech, than we are finished. We stand for nothing. "Defamation" or "insulting" a cult, a dogma whatever is entirely subjective and dangerous.
UN anti-blasphemy measures have sinister goals, observers say
Steven Edwards , Canwest News Service
UNITED NATIONS - Islamic countries Monday won United Nations backing for an anti-blasphemy measure Canada and other Western critics say risks being used to limit freedom of speech.
Combating Defamation of Religions passed 85-50 with 42 abstentions in a key UN General Assembly committee, and will enter into the international record after an expected rubber stamp by the plenary later in the year.
But while the draft's sponsors say it and earlier similar measures are aimed at preventing violence against worshippers regardless of religion, religious tolerance advocates warn the resolutions are being accumulated for a more sinister goal.
It provides international cover for domestic anti-blasphemy laws, and there are a number of people who are in prison today because they have been accused of committing blasphemy," said Bennett Graham, international program director with the Becket Fund, a think tank aimed at promoting religious liberty.
"Those arrests are made legitimate by the UN body's (effective) stamp of approval."
Passage of the resolution is part of a 10-year action plan the 57-state Organization of Islamic Conference launched in 2005 to ensure "renaissance" of the "Muslim Ummah" or community.
While the current resolution is non-binding, Pakistan's Ambassador Masood Khan reminded the UN's Human Rights Council this year that the OIC ultimately seeks a "new instrument or convention" on the issue. Such a measure would impose its terms on signatory states.
"Each time the resolution comes up, we get a measure of where the world is on this issue, and we see that the campaign has been ramped up," said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based monitoring group UN Watch.
While this year's draft is less Islam-centric that resolutions of earlier years, analysts note it is more emphatic in linking religion defamation and incitement to violence.
That "risks limiting a broad range of peaceful speech and expression," Neuer argues.
The 2008 draft "underscores the need to combat defamation of religions, and incitement to religious hatred in general, by strategizing and harmonizing actions at the local, national regional and international levels."
It also laments "Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism."
But Western democracies argue that a religion can't enjoy protection from criticism because that would require a judicial ruling that its teachings are the "truth."
"Defamation carries a particular legal meaning and application in domestic systems that makes the term wholly unsuitable in the context of religions," says the U.S. government in a response on the issue to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
"A defamatory statement . . . is more than just an offensive one. It is also a statement that is false."