Any freedom from religion on offer?

So the whole UN really is infected with this ‘defamation of religion should be banned’ virus.

United Nations General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann said on Tuesday that the world body should ban defamation of all religions and disagreed that such a move would impinge upon freedom of speech. “Yes, I believe that defamation of religion should be banned,” he said in response to a question at a press conference to highlight the interfaith conference at the UN headquarters. No one should try to defame Islam or any other religion, he said, adding: “We should respect all religions.”

Well now how would you go about banning ‘defamation’ of religion without impinging on freedom of speech? How would anyone? You might as well say ‘Yes, I believe that defamation of capitalism [or socialism, or monetarism, or economics, or photography, or mushrooms, or rabbits] should be banned’ and disagree that such a move would impinge upon freedom of speech. It makes the same amount of sense. And another thing – there is a difference between saying that no one should try to X and saying that X should be banned – a big and very important difference. It’s more than a little depressing that a guy (a priest, as he is) who is UN General Assembly President doesn’t get that distinction, or perhaps doesn’t think it matters. It’s a little depressing that the UN General Assembly President thinks the UN should ban kinds of speech that the UN General Assembly President doesn’t like.

So much for Austin Dacey’s recent work at the UN. So much for other protests.

But oh well, not to worry – King Abdullah is on the case.

Maybe King Abdullah, by articulating the central Muslim value of religious pluralism on the world stage, will find the citizens of his Kingdom demanding that he implement it at home.

The central Muslim value of religious pluralism? The…what?

Where? Where is that the case? Where is religious pluralism a central Muslim value? Malaysia? No. Pakistan? No. Somalia? No. Afghanistan? Now you’re just being silly. Saudi Arabia? Be serious. Where, then? And if the answer is ‘nowhere,’ what reason is there to think that religious pluralism is in fact a central Muslim value? There could be such a reason, or reasons; it could be the case that it is such a central value but that the ruling elites have all turned their backs on it; but I want a reason to think so before I will go ahead and think so.

Just to make the confusion complete, Bush tells us that ‘Freedom is God’s gift to every man, woman, and child.’ No it isn’t. It isn’t God’s gift to me, for instance. Some people choose to attribute freedom to God, but that doesn’t make the attribution accurate. It’s irritating that Bush blathers about religious freedom and in the same breath imposes his imaginary God on all of us. It’s not just believers who want and who get to have freedom; atheists are entitled too, but you’d never know it to hear the godbotherer in chief.

German minister of state Hermann Groehe defended the right to convert to another faith — a right not recognized in some Muslim countries. “It is unacceptable that up until now laws in some countries threaten those who want to convert with the death penalty,” said Groehe, without naming any countries.

Yes, but again, it’s not just conversion from one religion to another religion that is threatened (and sometimes rewarded) with the death penalty, it is also rejection of religion itself – yet Bush and Groehe are not reported to have mentioned that.

President Asif Ali Zardari of Muslim Pakistan said there was “nothing more un-Islamic” than discrimination, violence against women and terrorism, but also denounced hate speech against Islam in countries he did not identify.

Ah…there is nothing more un-Islamic than violence, is there. That would explain why Zardari’s wife was murdered by…You Know Who.

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