Support for UN vote against defaming religion wanes

November 24, 2010

ungaA U.N. General Assembly committee has once again voted to condemn the “vilification of religion” but support narrowed for a measure that Western powers say is a threat to freedom of expression. The non-binding resolution, championed by Islamic states and opposed by Western countries, passed by only 12 votes on Tuesday in the General Assembly’s Third Committee, which focuses on human rights, 76-64 with 42 abstentions.

(Photo: United Nations General Assembly  in New York September 24, 2010/Keith Bedford)

Opponents noted that support had fallen and opposition increased since last year, when the Third Committee vote was 81-55 with 43 abstentions. The 192-nation General Assembly is expected to formally adopt the measure next month.

The resolution was amended from versions passed in previous years in an attempt to secure support from Western nations. Instead of defamation of religion, it speaks of “vilification.” It also condemned acts of violence and intimidation due to “Islamophobia, Judeophobia and Christianophobia.” Last year’s resolution, as in previous years, focused on Islam and did not mention Judaism and Christianity.

Despite the changes, however, the United States, European Union and their allies rejected the resolution’s calls for legislation banning the defamation of religion.

The text, submitted by Morocco on behalf of Muslim states, said the assembly “urges all States to provide … adequate protection against acts of hatred, discrimination, intimidation and coercion resulting from vilification of religions, and incitement to religious hatred in general.”

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