Today, 10th December 2008, is the 60th anniversary
of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
, a document that (supposedly) safeguards the inherent rights every human should have. A document that is threatened today by that same organization that created it!
Over the years there have been many violations of these rights from many different sides and for various reasons. However, the recent United Nations
resolution about measures to condemn “defamation of religion
” seems to come in direct conflict with article 19 of the UDHR:
Article 19: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
This resolution is backed by the Organization of the Islamic Conference
with the only apparent goal to turn defamation of religion into an internationally binding law
. It is also informally supported by a number of other religious organizations for obvious reasons. Of course defamation of religion is a very vague term and can mean pretty much anything that any religious person translates as offensive. Dark clouds ahead
I don’t see why religion should be shielded from open discussion, criticism, and even sarcasm and satire. Every other conceivable idea or belief, from political positions to the arts and sports, is open to criticism -except religion. Is it that religious premises are so fundamentally flawed (albeit pervasive), that such efforts are needed in order to secure and preserve them?
Why should I respect other people’s beliefs by default?! What if that belief is abysmally stupid or promotes violence and discrimination?
There are all shorts of crazy beliefs out there. It should be possible to respectfully listen to other beliefs and ideas, but then it should also be possible to criticize them, express different opinion or even disgust at that belief. This is our inherent right, remember?
In the press conference the day before the UN General Meeting which passed the resolution, General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann said that
defamation of religion should be banned as a form of intolerance
That is utterly ridiculous! It is one thing to criticise other people’s beliefs, and a whole different thing to act on your intolerance with means that violate those people’s rights
! Heck, EVERYONE is offended by something these days! Come live in London where there are so many different cultures, beliefs, ideas, packed in this city. No matter what you say, someone will get offended. Does that mean that we should stop talking? Of course not! I don’t care if someone gets offended -I have the right to express my own opinions and criticise anything I want! No one has the right to silence me just because he feels offended
More interesting discussions in the buzzing blogosphere from Orac
: “Anti-blasphemy = anti-free speech”
: “Uh-oh. Will mysterious helicopters start following me around?”
, Dispatches from the Culture Wars
: “UN Passes Defamation of Religion Resolution”
, and the Open Parachute
: “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”
, regarding the borders of our freedom for expressions and the religious groups taking offence whenever a critical discussion of faith evolves (or whenever Muhammed is depicted in a cartoon…)