Washington D.C., May 5, 2011 / 03:49 am
Muslim countries may seek a United Nations resolution that would brand criticism of Islam and other religions as “hate speech,” a top U.S. religious freedom official is warning.
Earlier this year, Islamic nations lost their most recent bid to pass a resolution against “defamation” or “vilification” of religions in the U.N. Human Rights Council. Now they appear to be pursing a new tactic, said Leonard Leo, a presidential appointee who chairs the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
“My concern is that the Organization of the Islamic Conference will now try to get 'defamation of religions' and 'blasphemy' resolutions passed through the back door – that is to say, by pushing the 'hate speech' issue,” he told CNA.
The Islamic conference was lobbying the U.N. for what Leo called a “global blasphemy law,” which would have condemned “defamation of religions” and urged member states to pass laws against it.
Although the measure failed, Leo said Islamic states may have better luck using broader “hate speech” language that some Western countries already accept.
The Islamic states' new approach, he believes, will be “to move away from the 'defamation of religions' framework” they have relied on in the past, and move toward “a broader, more amorphous 'hate speech' framework.”
Many European nations already have laws against “hate speech” and a U.N. international covenant on civil and political rights also encourages prohibitions against it.
Leo said the Islamic nations’ shift in strategy may build on a vaguely-worded 2009 resolution that Egypt and the United States co-sponsored in the U.N. Human Rights Council.