Western and Islamic countries are at loggerheads over new international laws that criminalize Islamophobia. Today’s afternoon session of the Durban follow-up ended in disagreement, with several states urging the committee to consider the findings of independent experts to break the impasse.

  • Controversial subjects such as homophobia and “defamation of religion” have been removed from the official program of work, note diplomats at today’s meeting. They also add that a deal was struck in regional consultations to pull a footnote from the program of work that allowed the European Union to express its disagreement with issues prioritized by the Islamic countries.
  • Nigeria introduced new language that would de facto criminialize freedom of expression and “defamation of religion.” Denmark opposed with a point of order, arguing that it is forcing the committee to accept conclusions prematurely.
  • Disagreements arose quickly after Switzerland for the Cross-Regional Group (which includes Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Switzerland, Japan and Korea) stated that the legal framework already covers the issues in the Nigeria’s proposal. Switzerland argued that the objective of the committee is to implement existing standards, as expressed in the recommendations by UN-commissioned independent experts.
  • Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, Sudan, Iran all asserted that there are obvious gaps in the existing standards and that additional protocol is necessary.
  • Lichtenstein, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, United States, Ireland, Belgium argued the opposite view that existing standards fully cover the rights and freedoms under discussion. The United States compared the proposed laws to the Jim Crow laws that were used to suppress the rights of African Americans. Canada added, “The gaps that experts discern is a gap in the application of existing standards. This is what we should address before jumping forward to inappropriate conclusions.”
  • Argentina proposed inviting the experts of the Human Rights Committee, to which Nigeria flatly replied, “No, we will not invite any experts.”

Reporting by Cindy Tan.


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