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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019) and AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021).

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Muslim countries seek blasphemy ban

This story by Frank Jordan for Associated Press is well worth reading.

GENEVA — Four years after cartoons of the prophet Muhammad set off violent protests across the Muslim world, Islamic nations are mounting a campaign for an international treaty to protect religious symbols and beliefs from mockery — essentially a ban on blasphemy that would put them on a collision course with free speech laws in the West.

Documents obtained by The Associated Press show that Algeria and Pakistan have taken the lead in lobbying to eventually bring the proposal to a vote in the U.N. General Assembly.

If ratified in countries that enshrine freedom of expression as a fundamental right, such a treaty would require them to limit free speech if it risks seriously offending religious believers. The process, though, will take years and no showdown is imminent.

Go to the link above to read on.

I don't know what extra documents AP may have, since it is widely known that Pakistan has been taking the running in pushing for a UN ban on "defamation of religions", but the analysis looks pretty good. The issue will grind on over time, but it is clear that the nations forming the Organization of the Islamic Conference have long-term plans - plans which they will pursue tenaciously - to gain the moral high ground in their own draconian restrictions on freedom of speech, and to obtain what further restrictions they can, even in the West, on speech that criticises or satirises religion. The aim is to silence serious criticism of Islam, and if that means silencing serious criticism of other religions, too ... well, the OIC nations are happy to make common cause with anyone who is prepared to support their aim.

This is an issue that we should not lose sight of. Deep concern about the implications for freedom of speech - especially for freedom of speech that criticises religious doctrines, practices, leaders, organisations, etc. - is totally appropriate. This is not just paranoia on the part of some scattered free speech advocates; it's very serious.

The push to ban "defamation of religion(s)" was the topic of my talk at this year's Atheist Alliance International convention (in Los Angeles, back in October), and I'll continue to come back to it. It's easy even for civil rights activists to overlook the importance of this issue, and we must do what we can to make sure there is never any acquiescence from the West.


Greywizard said...

One of the biggest problems here is that Western media do not seem to be aware of just how serious a threat this is to freedom of speech - and because of that, to our other freedoms, all of which are based, in the end, on freedom of speech. There are occasional op-ed pieces, but they are very occasional. There needs to be a concerted drive by the media to bring this to the attention of everyone, so that we can push back against this serious threat to our freedoms with some real oomph. It is clear that the OIC is not going to give up. Any idea how this can be done?

Mike Haubrich, FCD said...

I think that long before it would become an issue for Western democracies and cause confusion of their laws, it would be used in theocratic countries to justify their laws on apostasy and blasphemy. The dissenters, whose hope for freedom of thought and religious expression is tenuous now at best would lose their last bit of hope. Their country's would tell them "Even the UN agrees that what you have done is wrong."

It should be stopped now.

Russell Blackford said...

I agree with both of you, but I don't know of a magic bullet to stop this. All we can do is keep raising awareness, finding opportunities to protest, and so on.

NewEnglandBob said...

Raising awareness of the consequences is the correct strategy. Protests of the non-militant kinds should be taken in as many locations as possible. Greywizard, the media should not be blamed for this. It is not their responsibility to lead, but to report. The editorials need to be written by the politicians and other leaders.

Greywizard said...

NewEnglandBob. I should have thought, since newspapers and other media are in the business of speech, they should have special concern for free speech, and should respond to threats to this freedom. I agree it is also the responsibility of politicians, but it is hard to think that sources of information and opinion should not be held responsible for their failure to defend the freedoms necessary for them to carry out their mandate. That they are not solely responsible goes without saying, but they do have important responsibilities here, and they are, to too great an extent, failing to live up to them.

Ben said...

This issue is more serious and more proximate than you imagine. Most observers are blinded to the big picture by a divide & conquer strategy.

Last month, the American/Egyptian Freedom of Opinion and Expression resolution passed through the UNHRC by consensus. Did anyone read it? Unlike the pending Defamation of Religions resolution in the G.A., it did not contain direct reference to defamation. Instead, it refered to "negative stereotyping", with the same net effect.

One little detail passed by without notice: dilution of media ownership. You probably never heard of it, but it is part of Obamination's Unfairness Doctrine. They hope to stifle conservative speech by transferring broadcast licenses from white males to females & minorities.

Yes, you read correctly. Obamination is taking his Unfairness doctrine international.

Our side is outnumbered in the G.A. There is no real possibility of stopping the proposed protocol to ICERD. It will pass. Obamination will sign it and the Senate will ratify it.

There is very little we can do. Arousing public awareness and activism through blog posts such as this is a necessary course of action.

We need to make our Representatives aware of H.Res. 763 and urge them to co-sponsor it and get it out of committee for an immediate vote.

We can turn the tables, using the enemy's favorite tactic against them. Sign and propagate the International Qur'an Petition which points out Islam's static doctrinal violations of ICERD & ICCPR.

If we do not apply every tactic available to us, blasphemy law will be enforced, globally and locally and it will be extended from religious issues to political issues. We will completely lose our ability to defend ourselves; led dumb like sheep to the slaughter.

If not us, who? If not now, when? http://www.crusadersarmory.co.cc/ is down at the moment. Try to visit frequently until it returns. Click thru to the petition and visit the Blog Posts page. Read the posts about Defamation and the Ad Hoc Cmte. The freedom you save will be your own.

Roger said...

The greater the truth the greater the blasphemy, perhaps?