President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which supported the anti-defamation proposals (Photo by Davepape @ Wikimedia Commons)

“Right now nothing is more aggressive than political religion,” Pat Condell intones in his most recent video on so called “aggressive atheism” that has recently been the focus of “bleeting and whining in the press,” as well as a focus in the United Nations “Human Rights” Council.

In light of the United Nations passing “Defamation” of Religion as a human rights violation in March (as well as other similar resolutions in previous years), nobody should be surprised at groups and individuals applying more pressure in the social sphere on religious fanaticism – especially when it is taken into account that the anti-defamation resolutions passed are largely a result of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), an organisation which has “indicated that the goal of its efforts is the adoption of a binding international covenant against the “defamation of religions” [1] which is nothing more than an attempt to bring to the West the oppressive blasphemy laws found in many theocratic Muslim nations.

This group has undertaken efforts to give Muslim citizens special protection, which we can confirm, because the original resolution submitted in 1999 was entitled “Defamation of Islam” and later changed to ‘Defamation of Religions’ (which was, ofcourse, necessary in order for the resolution to gain favour of predominately non-Muslim nations) with the aim denoted as:

“…a view to contributing concretely to the prevention and elimination of all such forms of incitement and the consequences of negative stereotyping of religions or beliefs, and their adherents…”

(Human Rights Commission 2008 – Combating Defamation of Religions, pg. 83)

These resolutions, while given the justification of being intended to prevent human rights abuses such as “the propaganda campaign that had been led by the Nazis in the Second World War against the Jews which had led to the Holocaust” [2] are in essence a deviation from the concept of universal human rights because the resolutions are an attempt to “protect religious institutions and interpretations, rather than individuals, and could help create a new international anti-blasphemy norm.”

The notion that speaking against an idea (which is essentially what religious ideology is) can be thought of as defamation requires us to redefine the term itself, which is generally defined as “the act of making untrue statements about another which damages his/her reputation.”[3]

The idea of defamation, and claiming right to protection from it, is obviously a matter regarding the protection of individuals – not institutions or ideas from criticism. The right of people to speak critically (and even offensively) in regard to an idea or an organisation should always be upheld by a freedom loving society, for if it is not, then the body deciding what speech about an ideology or group is acceptable will be the governing body.

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In theory, should a global anti-defamation covenant ever be installed it would be the responsibility of a prior to non-existent governing arm to discern what speech or so-called defamatory acts constitute defamation of a religion – if ever there could be a push to control thought, this is it, and not only that but what a waste of time (and money) such monitoring would be.

Further confirmation that the OIC – the organisation comprised of 57 predominately Muslim nations – has what can only be called a tyrannical view of speaking against Islam comes from the realisation that they appear to consider “any speech that the organization, or even cleric or individual, deems critical to Islam or Muslims to automatically constitute religiously defamatory speech” citing (in their March 2008 Observatory Report on Islamaphobia):

  • The publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed or Allah in several newspapers
  • Pope Benedict’s quotation of a fourteenth-century Byzantine emperor’s allegation that Mohammed was “bad and inhuman” for commanding his followers to spread Islam by the sword
  • Dutch MP Geert Wilders’ production of a then-unreleased film which the OIC believed would “vilify” the Qur’an

All of the above-mentioned, are to the civilised mind nothing more than examples of free human thought!

The statement that Islam is ‘violent’ is no more unfair than suggesting that the Prophet Mohammed was a product of history who should be left in the dust of the past, and out of the free world that many would like to see.

Despite Egypt expressing that “negative stereotyping and incitement” are “examples of freedom of expression being ‘misused’…” we must reaffirm that “international human rights law protects individuals” and has no basis in monitoring the security of an idea.

In October the The U.N. Human Rights Council approved a resolution, cosponsored by the U.S. and Egypt:

“It calls on states to condemn and criminalize “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.” It also condemns “negative stereotyping of religions and racial groups,” which is of course an oblique reference to accurate reporting about the jihad doctrine and Islamic supremacism — which is always the focus of whining by the Organization of the Islamic Conference and other groups about negative “stereotyping” of Islam.”

(U.S. co-sponsors anti-free speech resolution at the UN)

Blogger and author Acharya S noted, on the October resolution: “this resolution seems to be appeasing the Islamists who run the UNHRC. No doubt they will continue to push for full censorship of all criticism of Islam in the future.”

For religious liberty to exist, it is an absolute requirement that individuals be able to think and speak as they see fit, without threat of surveillance or sanctions for their views on an organisation or idea – anything else is an attempt at mind control, and will not work among educated citizens. Any abuse that religion receives should be handled by the faithful in an integral way, resolving the issue in an intelligent and humane manner, rather than attempting to silence people.

Silencing criticism only sends it underground.













[1] The Dangerous Idea of Protecting Religions from Defamation – USCIRF

[2] Committee of elimination of racial discrimination considers report of Pakistan

[3] Defamation Legal Definition Blasphemy in the United Nations – Wikipedia Blasphemy – Wikipedia

This article by Brenton Eccles was originally published in December 2009 entitled “DON’T protect religion from defamation.”