Foreign Policy Blogs

More Defamation of Religion Needed?

The Economist has jumped on the debate train: This past week they looked at the resolution on religious defamation, adopted by the UN Human Rights Council. Actually, they asked the question (which shows perfectly the confusion in this debate), “What exactly is it the drafters of the council resolution are trying to outlaw?” The answer to this question is fear. The Council is trying to restrict the defamation of religion with the hope that people of faith will be secure in their ability to practice their religions. According to the International Humanist, however, the resolution is dangerous because it does not distinguish what “hatred” of a religion could mean (ex: Islamophobia) as compared to mere criticism. This might show that we are not separating violent speech from regular speech. However, in the post-9/11 world, there is a fine line between the various kinds of anti al-Qaeda rhetoric and dangerous hate speech that affects ordinary Muslims.

As this blog has pointed out several times over the past year, the real fear for certain organizations is that “freedom of expression” will be damaged if there is substantial restrictions on the right to criticize. The question then becomes whether freedom of expression is a higher right under international law than freedom of worship and conscience. The main problem behind this debate is that the promoters of restrictions on defamation are countries facing public unrest on account of American and European rhetoric in the War on Terror. Pakistan, one of the sponsors of the resolution, has much to lose if the anti-Muslim rhetoric is not contained – at least partially. The U.S. is particularly pushing for a more stable Pakistan, and therefore, we should understand what kind of results come from the rhetoric of both government officials and ordinary citizens since 9-11.



Karin Esposito

Karin Esposito is blogging on religion and politics from her base in Central Asia. Currently, she is the Project Manager for the Tajikistan Dialogue Project in Dushanbe. The Project is run through the Geneva Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies with the support of PDIV of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. The aim of the project is to establish practical mechanisms for co-existence and peaceful conflict resolution between Islamic and secular representatives in Tajikistan. After receiving a Juris Doctorate from Boston University School of Law in 2007, she worked in Tajikistan for the Bureau of Human Rights and later as a Visting Professor of Politics and Law at the Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics, and Strategic Research (KIMEP). Ms. Esposito also holds a Master's in Contemporary Iranian Politics (2007) from the School of International Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Iran and a Master's in International Relations (2003) from the Geneva Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (GIIDS) in Switzerland.

Areas of Focus:
Islam; Christianity; Secularism;


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