In a joint statement by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) and Centre for Inquiry (CFI) at the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday, 15 March 2011, IHEU main representative Jack Jeffery challenged the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to broaden the scope of its oft-repeated resolutions on defamation of religion to encompass any actions or conduct leading to incitement to hatred or violence.
Here is the full text of Jack’s speech:
UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL: 15 March 2011
Item 4, Matters requiring the attention of the Council
Joint statement by CFI and IHEU
Speaker: Jack Jeffery
Defamation of religion? Or incitement to hatred?
Every year since 1999, the OIC has introduced resolutions combating defamation, denigration or vilification of religion, first in the Commission for Human Rights and more recently in the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly.
More than 200 NGOs have consistently opposed these resolutions because they strike not only at freedom of expression but directly at freedom of religion or belief.1, 2
The wording in these resolutions is significant because it conflates two quite distinct concerns: defamation of religion per se, and incitement to hatred or violence. The text can be read as implying that the first leads inexorably to the second, which is not only factually incorrect but which we believe is one of the main reasons for the growing opposition to these resolutions.
Yet from informal discussions we have had with a number of delegates we believe that there is a simple way of obtaining consensus on these resolutions. All States are surely opposed to incitement to hatred or violence by anyone, against anyone, and for any reason. We respectfully suggest therefore that the scope of these resolutions be widened to include any actions or conduct leading to incitement to hatred or violence.
We feel sure, Mr President, that such a wording would bring together all States genuinely concerned with protecting the right to freedom of religion or belief; that is, with protecting believers rather than their beliefs.
As the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Mr Heiner Bielefeldt, reminded the Council only last week: it is people that have human rights, not ideas, religions or beliefs.
Thank you sir
1. Speaking freely about religion: http://www.iheu.org/UN-blasphemy-report