OIC defends “defamation of religion” proposal in letter to UN

After suffering heavy public criticism, the Organization of the Islamic Conference defended its proposal to ban criticism of Islam in a letter addressed to a UN committee charged with defining the norms of anti-racism. It also resorted to attacking Western countries, mentioning only Denmark, the Netherlands, and the UK as human rights violators, ignoring the suppression and oppression of religious minorities in Muslim countries.

The October 29th letter, sent to Idriss Jazairy, chairman of the “Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary Standards,” was submitted by Pakistani representative Zamir Akram. It employs the same problematic logic seen during the committee sessions to justify criminalizing religious dissent.

The OIC letter argues that depictions of the Prophet Muhammad in newspaper cartoons amount to “psychological violence” and must therefore be prosecutable under international law. The letter says that “there already exist several schools of thought in Islam,” suggesting that sufficient exchange of ideas about Islam need only occur within its doctrinal sects. It lambastes the “malafide intentions” of Western countries that are fighting to protect freedom of expression. Specifically, Akram says that “hierarchical interpretations of fundamental freedoms” unfairly protect Jews against Holocaust denial. Finally, it attacks Universal Declaration of Human Rights for failing to take a “victim oriented approach” in addressing the plight of religious groups.

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