Defamation of Religion

This doesn’t look good:

Stressing that defamation of religions is a serious affront to human dignity leading to restriction on the freedom of religion of their adherents and incitement to religious hatred and violence…

The above is tajken from a text of a proposed UN Human Rights Council Resolution, seeking to condemn “defamation of religion”.  It only seems to mention Islam, however, and also says:

Deplores the use of the print, audio-visual and electronic media, including the Internet, and any other means to incite acts of violence, xenophobia or related intolerance and discrimination towards any religion, as well as targeting of religious symbols and venerated persons…

The problem here is that incitement to hatered and defamation of religion are two different things. English PEN argued this point when a Bill of similar spirit was introduced in 2005. Part of the problem is that intolerant groups like the BNP use the cover of religious criticism to veil their extreme xenophobia, and to inspire violence. But on the other hand, the idea of blasphemy and defamation are increasingly used to block any criticism of religion, which is never healthy.
The UN Watch blog says that the resolution is likely to be adopted, but is not binding on individual countries.  Nevertheless, it could mean that the UN is neutered in many human rights/free speech cases, such as the current travesty in Afghanistan, where Pervez Kambaksh has been sentenced to 20 years in prison on blasphemy charges.
I’ve always thought that both constructive criticism, and even satire, of any given faith was a sign of acceptance, like the teasing banter between teammates.  Its a sign that the majority agree that the minority group is here to stay, and must be engaged with.  Indeed, thoughtful criticism of a religion is also a tacit admission that it contains valuable aspects too. It is something to be welcomed, something that makes everyone strong.
That’s not how others see things, though.

2 Replies to “Defamation of Religion”

  1. Actually, criticism of a religion by itself is in fact taciturn on whether that religion also contains valuable aspects or not. What is to be welcomed, what makes everyone strong, is the thoughtfulness, whether it leads to criticism or praise.

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