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UN rights council adopts resolution condemning religious defamation

[JURIST] The UN Human Rights Council [official website] on Thursday adopted a resolution [text, PDF] condemning religious defamation [JURIST news archive]. The non-binding resolution, proposed by Pakistan, passed with a vote of 20-17 [press release], with eight abstentions. The resolution has long been sought by Muslim countries, which claim that Muslims have faced discrimination, especially since the 9/11 attacks on the US. The resolution states that the council:

Strongly condemns all manifestations and acts of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance against national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and migrants and the stereotypes often applied to them, including on the basis of religion or belief, and urges all States to apply and, where required, reinforce existing laws when such xenophobic or intolerant acts, manifestations or expressions occur, in order to deny impunity for those who commit such acts;
The resolution also contained a provision condemning Switzerland's recent ban on the construction of minarets [JURIST report]. Western nations have expressed concern that the resolution could be used to justify restrictions on free speech [Reuters report].

In November, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) [official website] began lobbying the UN General Assembly [official website] to pass an international treaty [JURIST report] protecting religious beliefs and symbols from defamation. The efforts of the OIC are being led by Pakistan and Algeria with full support of the organization's 54 remaining members. The US government has openly condemned the idea of a bar on defamation of religion, which it claims could have the adverse affect of suppressing dissidents and reformists in Muslim countries. In October, the US State Department [official website] released [JURIST report] its annual Report on International Religious Freedom [materials], criticizing Islamic countries for limiting religious expression. The report found that countries such as North Korea and Iran have attempted to prevent religious defamation as a way to limit religious expression. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official profile] said [transcript] that freedom of religion is essential not only in the US but in every society, and limiting an individual's right of expression reduces that freedom.

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