Protecting Believers, Not Beliefs

Some news out of the UN this week. For the first time since 1998, the General Assembly’s annual resolution against religious intolerance has dropped the call for banning “defamation of religions.” Muslim nations typically have supported the ban, but Western countries like the US have opposed it as a violation of freedom of speech. This year, Western and Muslim countries were able to agree to remove the reference to defamation in favor of a new approach that calls for ending discrimination against people on the basis of religion, an approach that Reuters describes as “protecting believers” rather than “beliefs.”  The deletion of the reference to defamation must be accounted a diplomatic victory for the US and other Western countries, but the new resolution also calls on nations to end “incitement to religious hatred.” I suppose some countries might interpret “incitement” to cover defamation as well, since defaming a religion could incite violence against its followers. So the defamation concept might still be lurking out there. The resolution is non-binding, in any case.

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