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Speaking at the United Nations today, 23 March 2010, IHEU representative Roy Brown called on the UN Human Rights Council to “reject the resolution ‘combating defamation of religions’ as both unjustifiable and unnecessary”. He also highlighted a new report showing that many of the countries who are most vocal in calling for restrictions on the “defamation of religion” actually have some of the highest levels of restrictions on freedom of religion. The resolution “combating defamation of religions” is scheduled to be voted on this Friday, 26 March 2010.

UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL: 13th Session (1 to 26 March 2010)
Item 9: Racism, racial discrimination and related issues
Speaker: IHEU Main Representative Roy W Brown. Tuesday 23 March 2010


Global Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Mr President,

We would like to draw the attention of the Council to a report by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life called Global Restrictions on Religion. The report finds that 64 States with some 70% of the world’s population have high or very high restrictions on religion, the brunt of which falls on religious minorities.

The report distinguishes between government restrictions and social hostility. The highest levels of government restrictions are found in China, Vietnam, Iran and Saudi Arabia although in China and Vietnam the levels of social hostility are relatively low. India, in contrast, has a moderate level of government restrictions but a high level of social hostility to religious minorities. The report notes that “The highest overall levels of restrictions are found in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran, where both the government and society at large impose numerous limits on religious beliefs and practices.”

The report clearly shows that many of the States promoting resolutions combating defamation of religion are among those least respectful of freedom of religion, and exposes the double standards at play in their calling for “complementary standards” and further restrictions in freedom of expression.

We also recommend the IHEU report: “Speaking Freely About Religion”, an analysis which shows that the concept of defamation of religion has no basis in international law; that such resolutions violate the right to both freedom of religion and freedom of expression; that laws against defamation of religion are equivalent to laws against blasphemy, and equally open to abuse; and that the concerns these resolutions ostensibly seek to address would be better dealt with by a more uniform application of existing international laws against intolerance and discrimination.

Mr President, we urge the council to reject the resolution “combating defamation of religions” as both unjustifiable and unnecessary.

Thank you sir.

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