In Geneva

Austin Dacey has been in Geneva all this month on assignment from the Center for Inquiry to defend human rights against attacks from people who prefer religious rights. Hillel Neuer of UN Watch got down to work the next day.

For several years, states from the Organization of the Islamic Conference have advanced resolutions to combat “the defamation of religion,” which have passed handily. In March, the OIC, aided by Russia, China, Cuba, and the so-called non-aligned states, succeeded in altering the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression to include monitoring and reporting on “abuses” of expression on matters of religion. In late August, an Abuja, Nigeria regional meeting (in preparation for the Durban II conference on racism) issued a Declaration that calls on states to “avoid clinging inflexibly to free speech…with absolute disregard to religious feeling.”

No, not going to do that; going to go on clinging inflexibly to free speech with absolute disregard to religious feeling. Religious feeling going to have to take care of itself. (I know, I’m not a state, but once states avoid clinging inflexibly, they will expect their citizens to do likewise, won’t they.)

One would have thought that the UN would be a citadel for freedom expression, but it has now become home to blasphemy prohibitions. As I mentioned during the panel discussion today, this taboo is now in effect in the chambers of the HRC itself. Late in the eighth session of the HRC, an NGO representative attempted to raise questions about OIC-backed statements of “Islamic human rights,” and he was interrupted by the Pakistani delegation, which claimed that even to discuss such matters was an insult to his faith.

That was our friend David Littman. Austin teams up with David Littman later in the month. Read all of September, he tells about it.

And those of you who have blogs or websites or newspaper columns or radio chat shows – I don’t usually hit you up this way, but I’m going to now – please spread the word about CFI’s report on all this, written by Austin and by Colin Koproske. Lure people in with a teaser if you like, but anyway spread the word. This stuff is way too little reported. Let’s swiftboat it, only without the lying.

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