Source: The Washington Times
The Bush administration, European governments and religious rights organizations are mounting a new effort to defeat a General Assembly resolution that demands respect for Islam and other religions but has been used to justify persecution of religious minorities.
The resolution, called "Combating Defamation of Religion," is sponsored by the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and has been approved by the world body annually since 2005. It comes up for renewal this fall.
U.S. officials said they hope to persuade moderate Muslim nations - among them Senegal, Mali, Nigeria and Indonesia - to reject the measure, which lacks the force of law but has provided diplomatic cover for regimes that repress critical speech. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.
Religious rights groups say other U.N. measures, including statements by the Human Rights Council in Geneva, replicate the language of the resolution.
"Before, it was one resolution with no impact and no implementation," said Felice Gaer, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan federal body that investigates abuses and proposes policies to advance "freedom of thought, conscience and religion."
"Now we are seeing a clear attempt by OIC countries to mainstream the concept and insert it into just about every other topic they can," Miss Gaer said. "They are turning freedom of expression into restriction of expression."
European governments are also concerned.
The European Center for Law and Justice filed a brief with the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in June warning that such anti-defamation resolutions "are in direct violation of international law concerning the rights to freedom of religion and expression."
U.S. officials working on human rights said the resolutions are being used to justify harsh blasphemy laws in countries such as Pakistan, Egypt, Sudan and Afghanistan.