by Mudar Zahran
January 19, 2012
On December 19, 2011, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution condemning the negative stereotyping and stigmatization of people based on their religion, and urged member states to take effective measures towards addressing and combating "such incidents." This resolution, based on an initiative from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), was supported by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who hosted a closed-door three-day meeting – apparently one of many in a series called the "Istanbul Process"-- in Washington D.C. with OIC representatives to discuss ways to implement the resolution.
What might sound like a step toward "tolerance," however, is in reality an assault on freedom of speech: a UN-endorsed violation of human rights, co-sponsored by the US, and prompted by the OIC, an organization of 57 Muslim nations, most of which hold the world's worst records on freedom of speech.
The OIC initiative for a UN resolution against "defamation of religion" is not new; the OIC has been promoting it for the last 13 years despite earlier opposition from Western countries. What changed recently was dropping the word "defamation of religion" and stressing "freedom of speech"-- something about which Secretary of State Clinton seems to be enthusiastic.
What resulted, however, from this new "Resolution 16/18," as it is called, is a US-endorsed UN proposal that urges the restriction of freedom of speech by using a vague terms, such as combating "religious profiling" – a term that can be interpreted by anyone any way he likes.
Placing such language into an international legal context forces people to have to think twice before practicing their constitutionally-secured right of free speech – in the US, at least -- when it comes to discussing religion.
What is also alarming, even to me as a practicing Muslim, is the fact that the resolution seems to revolve around just one religion: Islam. But will the OIC countries implement any resolution for themselves, taking measures against their government-sponsored demonization of the Jewish faith and the systematic proliferation of anti-Semitism?
Does Resolution 16/18 mean that Muslims will still be free in their textbooks to call Jews the sons of swine and monkeys -- perhaps on some trumped-up excuse that that a such a remark is not religious but "only" racial?
Will the Palestinians' highest religious authority, the Mufti, Muhammad Hussein, still be able to say, as he did in early January at a Fatah (not Hamas) event to celebrate the 47th anniversary of its founding, that the destiny of Muslims is to kill Jews [sic], and, quoting a Hadith [a saying attributed to the prophet Mohammad] that "The Hour [of Resurrection] will not come until you fight the Jews… come and kill [them]" – and then have Palestinian TV repeat it?
Will the Egyptian police still run over unarmed Christians with armoured vehicles and burn down churches, as has happened in recent weeks? Or will Resolution 16/18 simply evolve as it has now in Egypt, where the Egyptian courts prosecute only Christians in "contempt of religion" cases, loosely based on Facebook or twitter postings of cartoons deemed to be "insulting to Islam" [AINA: Double Standard in Application of Egyptian Law], but constantly fail to prosecute members of the security services who mow down Christians with armored vehicles or torch churches?
Since the Jews have already been ethnically cleansed from most of these countries, the Christians are next in line. As they say in Arabic, "Saturday's job first, then get to Sunday's job."
Will the Palestinian Authority, an OIC member, remove the signs banning Jews from entering areas under its control that are labeled "Type A-areas" and that read "Israelis [Jews] are not allowed"? Would Jordan stop banning the entry of "visible Jews" with "Jewish prayer items"?
Worse, the resolution, if implemented, would hinder the efforts of those seeking further to understand Islam, or even discuss it in an un-self-censoring way-- including Muslims seeking to bring it out of its often brutal tribal roots. The values of Islam, for example, encourage the military conquest of non-Muslim nations. Although this value is within my religion, as a Muslim, I would like to see it being dropped—Now, is that a defamation of my own religion?
Is Obama's, Clinton's and the US's current message that some religions are "more sacred" than others?
A brief examination of the OIC's history shows the organization is not new to the international proliferation of thought-policing: The OIC is made up of 57 member states (including Russia), with a permanent delegation to the UN. The OIC considers itself the largest international organization outside of the UN; its scope is global.
The OIC has been trying to get this declaration of defamation of religions adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council, a quest described by some as an attempt by the OIC states to bypass the human rights that are protected by the international law, such as the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and thus distort and lower the standards.
The OIC has also established its own Declaration of Human Rights, the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam. Although the Cairo Declaration pays lip service to the UN Declaration -- which, as UN member states, these nations are presumably meant to uphold – it is in fact an alternative to the UN Declaration of Human Rights, and in all likelihood intended to supplant it. The OIC members have slipped it a small clause, stating that all human rights acknowledged by OIC are "subjective to the Sharia law."
As always with international law the questions become, Who implements it? Do they act in good faith? And if not, what recourse is there?
Already, both Iran and the Palestinian Authority are in gross violation of both the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration Against Genocide, yet no country has even moved to challenge either Iran or the Palestinian Authority for these violations.
At the same time, one other country is continually under attack for what often seems like the slightest perceived infraction; and the words "racist" and "apartheid" refer to one country only, which is neither: Israel -- but does this mean that most Arab countries—which are genuinely both racist and apartheid, in both gender and religion -- are not?
Even without a single prosecution to date for the hundred-billion-dollar oil-for-food-embezzlement, or for the continuing sex-for-food violations of children in Africa, Bosnia, Cambodia and Haiti by "peacekeepers" sent to protect them, it would seem as if the United Nations is sufficiently toxic and unlawful to warrant being closed down, or, at the very least, unfunded.
Unfortunately without ever investigating the United Nations, perhaps the biggest international human rights violator of all, Human Rights Watch, in one of its reports, says that the OIC, at least, has been relentless protecting states that violate human rights from criticism.
Human Rights Watch also states it has concerns over the OIC's definition of terrorism, which includes "imperilling people's honour;" "threatening political unity," which sounds like an enshrinement of "one man, one vote, one time;" and "threatening territorial integrity." Would the OIC label the people of Quebec who want separation from Canada terrorists for threatening Canada's "territorial integrity"? Would the OIC recognize the Tea Party as a terrorist organization for "threatening political unity" in the US?
Funny? Not really. The OIC could easily try to market those definitions of "terrorism" that Human Rights Watch describes as "vague," and label genuinely "peaceful acts of expression" as terrorism.
Revealingly, the OIC excludes all real acts of terrorism – carried out by terrorist organizations, such as Hamas – calling them "legitimate struggle".
Further, the OIC officials enthusiastically keep voicing support for the Palestinian "Intifada" [uprising] against Israel, while at the same time failing to provide any significant support either in kind or in finances to the millions of Palestinians within the OIC member states, or even recognizing the miserable human rights conditions of the people about whom they profess to be so concerned. Is it possible that the OIC is more interested in demonizing and harassing Jews than protecting the welfare of their fellow Muslims, the Palestinians?
The US government and the US Department of State are not ignorant about the true nature of the OIC member states, especially when it comes to religious freedom —a significant aspect of freedom of speech. The US Department of State 2010 International Religious Freedom Report signifies US concern about religious freedom in several OIC countries, including Iraq and Pakistan. Nevertheless, last year, OIC secretary general Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu was received by president Obama at the White House where Obama expressed "his appreciation regarding the on-going cooperation and engagement between the US and the OIC, including …"combating intolerance and other issues of political nature".
It is shattering that the Obama Administration has welcomed a UN resolution limiting the freedom of speech about religion, especially as it was initiated by countries known to oppress religious freedoms.
The ostensible big change in Resolution 16/18 was apparently that the words "defamation of religion" were dropped – but with no guarantee that they would not be reintroduced later. More meetings like the closed-door one in Washington -- called the "Istanbul Process" -- are apparently planed to discuss "how to implement Resolution 16/18. Resolution 16/18 does not need implementing; it needs abolishing. Now.
The OIC's triumph at the UN of passing a resolution limiting freedom of speech is alarming in that opens the door for further thought-policing resolutions. Why shouldn't the OIC now have good reason to hope that these will also be endorsed by the UN – and also co-sponsored by the United States?