IHEU today received a very warm reception from an especially large number of Member States and UN institutions, as our representative slammed the various Islamic countries which have encouraged overreaction or violence in response to the video ‘Innocence of Muslims’.

The low-quality amateur video production “mocking” Islam was posted online in July, and had been virtually ignored until publicised by a rabble-rousing Egyptian TV journalist on 8 September. The resulting violence affecting 17 Islamic or Muslim-majority countries has already led to the deaths of nearly 100 people, as well as demands for new international laws to combat freedom of expression. But as IHEU representative Josephine Macintosh told the Human Rights Council today, the Council and UN Member States should on no account bow down to these demands. Here is the full text of her speech:

Human Rights Council 21st Session,  10 – 28 September 2012
Speaker: IHEU Representative Josephine Macintosh, Tuesday 25 September 2012
Agenda Item 9: Racism, racial intolerance and related forms of discrimination

Incitement to violence in the name of religion

Madam President

We appeal to the member states of this Council and the wider international community to recognise that the limits to freedom of expression are already well-drawn in international law. Articles 19 and 20 of the ICCPR, drafted while the memory of the Holocaust was still fresh in our minds, set out very clear limits to what can be permitted if incitement to hatred and violence are to be effectively combated.

The poorly-made video clip insulting Islam gained virtually no attention when it first appeared on the Internet in July and only became an international issue when publicised by the rabble-rousing Sheikh Khalad Abdalla, a host on the Islamist satellite-TV station al-Nas. The protests we are now hearing from many leaders in the Islamic world should therefore be seen for what they are – political expediency by states who wish to limit freedom of expression as a way of limiting opposition to their undemocratic and repressive regimes.

This Council should on no account bow down to these demands.

Madam President, there is no human right not to be offended. As the High Commissioner has reminded us the correct answer to provocation is often to ignore it. [And may we respectfully remind this Council that everyone has the right to protest against tyranny, repression, corruption and abuse of human rights – even when they are carried out in the name or religion.]

The video clip was an ignorant, tasteless, amateur production that should have been left to perish in the waste bin of ignorance. To treat such garbage as a major attack on millions of individuals is quite simply nonsense. Those who have used this incident to whip up the violence any mayhem that has led to the deaths of almost 100 people must be held to account for their crimes.

Madam President, we must not allow this incident to be used as a weapon to further limit our cherished and hard-won freedom of expression.

Thank you

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