- Published on Friday, 23 October 2009 01:27
- Written by John Draper
- Hits: 2209
For more than a decade, a UN resolution on the freedom of expression was shepherded through the United Nations by Canada. Over the years, Canada tried to win consensus on minimum standards, but in 2008, against the backdrop of the publication of images of Mohammed in a Danish newspaper, Cuba and various Islamic countries destroyed the consensus and rammed through an amendment which introduced a limit on any speech they claimed was an "abuse . . . [that] constitutes an act of racial or religious discrimination."
The Obama administration recently decided that a reworked freedom of expression resolution, extracted from Canadian hands, would be an ideal symbol for its new "engagement" policy. So it co-sponsored a resolution on the subject with Muslim Egypt - a country not known for freedom of expression.
Privately, other Western governments were taken aback and watched the weeks of negotiations with dismay as it became clear that American negotiators wanted consensus at all costs. In introducing the resolution on Thursday, October 1 -- adopted by consensus the following day -- the ranking U.S. diplomat, Chargé d'Affaires Douglas Griffiths, announced:
"The United States is very pleased to present this joint project with Egypt. This initiative is a manifestation of the Obama administration's commitment to multilateral engagement throughout the United Nations and of our genuine desire to seek and build cooperation based upon mutual interest and mutual respect in pursuit of our shared common principles of tolerance and the dignity of all human beings."
His Egyptian counterpart, Ambassador Hisham Badr, was equally pleased - for all the wrong reasons. He praised the development by telling the Council that "freedom of expression . . . has been sometimes misused," insisting on limits consistent with the "true nature of this right" and demanding that the "the media must . . . conduct . . . itself in a professional and ethical manner."
But the new resolution emphasizes that "the exercise of the right to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities . . ." which include taking action against anything meeting the description of "negative racial and religious stereotyping." It also purports to "recognize . . . the moral and social responsibilities of the media" and supports "the media's elaboration of voluntary codes of professional ethical conduct" in relation to "combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance."
Seems like it's saying - limits on free speech are OK if you can label it anti-religion or racist. So laws against blasphemy would be OK; criticism of Catholic criminal behaviour would be banned; describing Muhammad as a pedophile could result in imprisonment or worse - you name it, this limits free speech big time. What happened to the U.S. First Amendment? Is Free speech only allowed if you agree with it? Then it's not free speech anymore. We do not need free speech to protect popular thoughts or popular people. It is designed to protect those who challenge the majority and its institutions. Criticism of religion is the very essence of the guarantee of free speech.
Ironically, in Muslim Pakistan, there is a growing feeling that their blasphemy laws should be repealed because of all the Christians killed by Muslims who use this law as their justification. (Source Pakistan Christian Post)
Also ironically - especially to me as a Canadian - the U.S. first amendment ensures not only freedom of speech but freedom from a state religion - yet it's religious people who are complaining about speech being too free.
You know it can't be good since it was co-sponsored by Egypt, which has long been criticized for prosecuting artists, activists and journalists for insulting Islam. For example, Egypt recently banned a journal that published respected poet Helmi Salem merely because one of his poems compared God to a villager who feeds ducks and milks cows.
Blasphemy prosecutions in the West appear to have increased after the riots by Muslims following the publication of cartoons disrespecting prophet Mohammed in Denmark in 2005. Rioters killed Christians, burned churches and called for the execution of the cartoonists. While Western countries publicly defended free speech, some quietly moved to deter those who'd cause further controversies through unpopular speech.
In Britain, it is a crime to "abuse" or "threaten" a religion under the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006. A 15-year-old boy was charged last year for holding up a sign outside a Scientology building declaring, "Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult." In France, famed actress Brigitte Bardot was convicted for saying in 2006 that Muslims were ruining France in a letter to then-Interior Minister (and now President) Nicolas Sarkozy. This year, Ireland joined this self-destructive trend with a blasphemy law aimed at critics of Catholics.
Consider just a few such Western "blasphemy" cases in the past two years:
- In Holland, Dutch prosecutors arrested cartoonist Gregorius Nekschot for insulting Christians and Muslims with cartoons, including one that caricatured a Christian fundamentalist and a Muslim fundamentalist as zombies who want to marry and attend gay rallies.
- In Italy, comedian Sabina Guzzanti was put under criminal investigation for joking at a rally that "in 20 years, the pope will be where he ought to be - in hell, tormented by great big poofter (gay) devils, and very active ones." (see Penn and Teller video)
- In London, an aide to British Foreign Secretary David Miliband was arrested for "inciting religious hatred" at his gym by shouting obscenities about Jews while watching news reports of Israel's bombardment of Gaza.Also, Dutch politician Geert Wilders was initially barred from entering Britain as a "threat to public policy, public security or public health" because he made a movie describing the Quran as a "fascist" book and Islam as a violent religion. (See more here)
- In Poland, Catholic magazine Gosc Niedzielny was fined $11,000 for inciting "contempt, hostility and malice" by comparing the abortion of a woman to the medical experiments at Auschwitz.
The "blasphemy" cases include the prosecution of writers for calling Mohammed a "pedophile" because of his marriage to 6-year-old Aisha (which was consummated when she was 9). A legislator in Austria, a publisher in India and a city councilman in Finland have been prosecuted for repeating this fact.
The UN resolution means that more examples like these will occur and then only the religious will have true free speech.
And the latest video from Pat Condell (below) slams into Obama for supporting this UN resolution and asks the American People to please guard their First amendment rights. The resolution would not be valid inside the US because of the First Amendment.