US Fights Islam Anti-Defamation Push
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CAIRO — The Bush administration is leading a global campaign to block a UN resolution sponsored by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to call for respect Islam and deplore the defamation of religions.
"We are seeing a clear attempt by OIC countries to mainstream the concept and insert it into just about every other topic they can," Felice Gaer, chairwoman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), told The Washington Times on Tuesday, September 2.
"They are turning freedom of expression into restriction of expression," added Gaer whose government agency monitors religious freedom in the world and gives policy recommendations to the president.
The UN General Assembly resolution, "Combating Defamation of Religion," was presented by the OIC in 2005 to urge a global prohibition on public defamation of religions, particularly Islam.
Since then, the non-binding resolution has been approved by the world body annually.
But before the time of the resolution renewal this year, Washington has been leading a campaign against it joined by European governments.
The European Center for Law and Justice filed a brief with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in June against the measure.
The Bush administration is also trying to persuade Muslim nations - among them Senegal, Mali, Nigeria and Indonesia - to reject the measure, US officials told the Times.
The OIC leadership has been meeting with Western diplomats to try to resolve the issue.
"We want to build consensus for this resolution, because it will benefit all, and it is important," said Abdul Wahab, the OIC permanent observer to the UN.
"But of course we can have a vote, if necessary."
US officials claim the resolution paves the way for harsh blasphemy laws in Muslim countries.
"In cases we've monitored, it's minority religions - Christians, Baha'i, and non-conforming Muslims," who are most at risk, Gaer said.
But the world's biggest Muslim body insists that the resolution aims at safeguarding religions from insults, a phenomenon that has become common of late.
The document is meant to safeguard religious ideas and allow religious minorities to lead "a life of respect….free of coercion, fear or threat," the OIC office in Geneva told The Times in an e-mail.
It noted that UN human rights rapporteurs have been reporting an increase in the number and intensity of "racio-religious" discrimination.
The 57-nation body also stressed that most of the language in the resolution has been used in conventions on civil rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and resolutions to combat racism.
The most recent version of the anti-defamation resolution, passed by the world body in December, cites the erroneous connection of Islam to terrorism.
It also "stresses the need to effectively combat defamation of all religions and incitement to religious hatred, against Islam and Muslims in particular."
A number of reports and studies by high-profile organizations have warned recently of the rise of Islamophobia around the world.
In a report to UN Human Rights Council in 2007, UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and related Intolerance Doudou Diene warned that Islamophobia was a growing phenomenon.
In a February report, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) cited "dramatic" increase of Islamophobia and said Muslims have been the subject of stereotyping, stigmatizing and biased media portrayal.
The Almighty Allah says,
"When a servant thinks of Me, I am near.
When he invokes Me, I am with him.
If he reflects on Me in secret, I reply in secret,
And if he acknowledges Me in an assembly,
I acknowledge him in a far superior assembly."
- Prophet Muhammad (SAW), as reptd by Abu Huraira