Support lower for Muslim-backed U.N. text on defamation of religion

December 18, 2009
UNGA

United Nations General Assembly, 24 Sept 2009/Ray Stubblebine

The U.N. General Assembly condemned defamation of religion for the fifth year running on Friday but support continued to erode for a resolution Western countries say threatens freedom of speech.

The assembly passed the Islamic-sponsored resolution with 80 votes in favor, 61 against and 42 abstentions. That compared with 86 votes to 53 against with 42 abstentions for a similar text last year and figures of 108-51-25 in 2007, the last time the measure commanded an absolute majority of U.N. members.

The nonbinding resolution has gone through every year since it was prompted in 2005 by a row over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that appeared in a Danish newspaper, sparking bloody protests by Muslims around the world.  The only religion the resolution specifically names as a target of defamation is Islam.

Angela Wu of the Washington-based Becket Fund for Religious Liberty said the resolution “provides international cover for domestic blasphemy laws that are overbroad and easy to abuse … The concept of ‘defamation of religions’ undermines the foundations of human rights law by protecting ideas instead of people, and empowering states instead of their citizens.”

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