Islamic states are challenging the draft text of the annual UN resolution on religious intolerance, demanding that deference to religion be allowed to trump freedom of the press and freedom of speech.
During consultations organized last week by the European Union, which will be presenting its draft at the Human Rights Council session that opens on Monday, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) demanded that the resolution:
1) Express alarm at the increased negative projection of religions in the media;
2) Link freedom of expression and freedom of religion;
3) Reject the equation of religions with terrorism (the EU accepted this, but there are still discussions on the exact wording);
4) Protect religions from defamation, attack, or contempt.
5) “Welcome” the “work” of the Special Rapporteur — but not “recognize” it, as is customary.
Specifically, the OIC wants to include a new paragraph:
alarmed at increasing instances of deliberate and systematic negative projection of religions, their adherents and prophets in media and by influential political parties and groups.
The EU opposes this phrase.
A related disagreement is over whether religions or individuals are the bearers of rights. The EU co-sponsors claim that the OIC language is inconsistent with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which limits freedom of expression only in very limited cases. The OIC text would create new restrictions for people who show “contempt” for a religion, which is hard to define, and a dangerous precedent. Canada pointed out that the best way to protect religions is by respecting the individual freedom of religion.
Egypt’s new language:
Emphasizes that respect for and protection of all religions and beliefs, consistent with international human rights law and relevant national legislation is a substantial element conducive for the exercise of the individual right to freedom of thought, conscience or religion and the protection thereof.
The OIC seems determined to replace the current UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion, Asma Jahangir. A Pakistani human rights activist, Ms. Jahangir was among those detained by the Musharraf government crackdown.
South Africa told fellow diplomats in Geneva that Christianophobia, Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism do not exist in its country. They want this “fact” to be reflected in the resolution.
The resolution is expected to come to a vote on Friday. There is still no consensus. The OIC continues to have reservations and South Africa has indicated that they will table formal amendments.