Free Speech Silenced at the UN

Monday, March 16, 2009

An excerpt from an article called Stand Up for the Right to Criticize Religion:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated sixty years ago that "a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief is the highest aspiration of the common people." It was a Magna Carta for mankind — and loathed by every human rights abuser on earth. Today, the Chinese dictatorship calls it "Western", Robert Mugabe calls it "colonialist", and Dick Cheney calls it "outdated." The countries of the world have chronically failed to meet it — but the document has been held up by the United Nations as the ultimate standard against which to check ourselves. Until now.

Starting in 1999, a coalition of Islamist tyrants led by Saudi Arabia demanded the rules be rewritten. The demand for everyone to be able to think and speak freely failed to "respect" the "unique sensitivities" of the religious, they said — so they issued an alternative Islamic Declaration of Human Rights. It said you can only speak within "the limits set by the shariah [law]. It is not permitted to spread falsehood or disseminate that which involves encouraging abomination or forsaking the Islamic community." In other words: you can say anything you like, as long as it precisely what the reactionary mullahs tell you to say. The declaration makes it clear there is no equality for women, gays, non-Muslims, or apostates. It has been backed by the Vatican and a bevy of Christian fundamentalists.

Incredibly, they are succeeding. The UN's Rapporteur on Human Rights has always been tasked with exposing and shaming those who prevent free speech — including the religious. But the Pakistani delegate recently demanded that his job description be changed so he seeks out and condemns "abuses of free expression" including "defamation of religions and prophets". The council agreed — so the job has been turned on its head. Instead of condemning the people who tried to murder Salman Rushdie, they will be condemning Salman Rushdie himself.

Anything which can be deemed "religious" is no longer allowed to be a subject of discussion at the UN — and almost everything is deemed religious. Roy Brown of the International Humanist and Ethical Union has tried to raise topics like the stoning of women accused of adultery or child marriage. The Egyptian delegate stood up to announce discussion of shariah "will not happen" and "Islam will not be crucified in this council" — and Brown was ordered to be silent.

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