Saturday, 28 February 2009

Freedom of speech vs religion

It has come to my attention that the United Nation will soon be voting, in General Assembly, to make it a criminal offence to criticise religion. The wording is vague to the point of being unreadable but here is the actual text. There are several sections where mention is made of 'defamation of religion' and 'incitement to religious hatred' in the same sentence. This basically means that voting in favour of this declaration criminalises 'incitement to religious hatred' (in my opinion a good thing) and also 'defamation of religions' (not so good. Bad, actually).

So, to get this straight, some Islamic nations have decided that their faith and their god is so weak that he (and it most certainly is a he) has to be protected by the UN. OK, seems like a small price to pay, it won't really affect us in the west, just the people who are already oppresed in those countries anyway. But read a little further, you'll notice that the Declaration has a little surprise:

14. Urges all States to provide, within their respective legal and constitutional systems, adequate protection against acts of hatred,discrimination, intimidation and coercion resulting from defamation of religions and incitement to religious hatred in general, to take all possible measures to promote tolerance and respect for all religions and beliefs and the understanding of their value systems and to complement legal systems with intellectual and moral strategies to combat religious hatred and intolerance

What does this mean? It means laws. In your country. No cartoons featuring the Prophet, no discussion of human rights violations in Muslim countries, no discussion of anything related to religion at all. Period.

For a more in-depth analysis, here's a pdf with annotations. The document keeps being changed at the UN, so I'll keep you updated.

This will be a General Assembly vote. That means that there is no power of veto. Hope you counted the voters at the end.

Those in favour : 85
Against : 50
Abstain: 42

Which brings me to Freedom of Speech, while we have it. Oh wait. I heard from the government last week that we have freedom of speech 'up to a point'.

This was during a discussion about refusing entry into the UK of a Dutch film maker who made a film called Fitna. The film quotes passages from the Koran and uses images of the devastation done in the name of Islam. No narration, just straight-forward propaganda. Of course freedom of speech is ok for this guy. I'm not saying both should be banned, just that we have a little balance. Or at least some consistency.

Also, I was going to point you in the direction of a great article by the writer Philip Pullman. Unfortunately, being on the subject of free speech, the Times (UK) seem to have pulled it, but it is available here. (Thanks Neal)

No comments:

Post a Comment