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Thursday, August 25, 2011

HR Resolution 16/18
-- the OIC, the UN and the criminalisation of criticism of Islam

By Elizabeth Kendal
Religious Liberty Monitoring
Special to ASSIST News Service

AUSTRALIA (ANS) -- Thesis: While it has been hailed in the West as a victory for free speech, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference's (OIC's) new Resolution 16/18, "Combating intolerance . . .", is even more dangerous than resolution 2005/3, "Combating Defamation of Religion". Far from being an OIC back-down or a breakthrough for liberty, the change in focus from defamation to incitement is not only totally consistent with OIC strategy since early 2009, but it actually advances the OIC's primary goal: the criminalisation of criticism of Islam.

NOTE: on 28 June 2011, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference changed its name to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

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HR Resolution 16/18

In March 2011, after discussions with the US held in wake of the blasphemy assassinations of the governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, and Minorities MP, Shabbaz Bhatti , Pakistan presented the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) with a new resolution: HR Resolution 16/18, "Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence, and violence against persons based on religion or belief".

The resolution was presented by Pakistan for OIC under Agenda item 9 pertaining to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related form of intolerance, follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

Because it shifted the focus from "defamation" to "incitement", Resolution 16/18 was immediately hailed as a "huge achievement" -- a breakthrough for human rights. However, it has long been the intention of the OIC to shift the focus to incitement as per Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which mandates that incitement be "prohibited by law".  The resolution was passed on 24 March 2011.

Excerpts: UNHRC Resolution 16/18 (emphasis mine)

The Human Rights Council,

(1) Expresses deep concern at the continued serious instances of derogatory stereotyping, negative profiling and stigmatization of persons based on their religion or beliefs, as well as programmes and agendas pursued by extremist organizations and groups aimed at creating and perpetuating negative stereotypes about religious groups . . .

(3) Condemns any advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence [NOTE: exact wording of ICCPR Article 20.2], whether it involves the use of print, audio-visual of electronic media or any other means . . .

(5) . . . call[s] on States to take the following actions to foster a domestic environment of religious tolerance, peace and respect, by:
(e) Speaking out against intolerance, including advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence [NOTE: exact wording of ICCPR Article 20.2];
(g) Understanding the need to combat denigration and negative religious stereotyping of persons, as well as incitement to religious hatred . . .

(6) Calls upon all States:
(d) To make a strong effort to counter religious profiling, which is understood to be the invidious use of religion as a criterion in conducting questionings, searches and other law enforcement investigative procedures;

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Presumably this resolution would permit a critic to assert that "fundamentalist Islam is inherently violent", while making it unacceptable for an employer or security officer to suggest than an Islamic fundamentalist should not be employed at this school or that airport, or that they should be watched or investigated or searched -- for that would be negative profiling based on religion.

Meanwhile, though the language of "defamation" has been eradicated, a critical / offensive comment such as "fundamentalist Islam is inherently violent", would doubtless be viewed as incitement. In fact anything that could have been deemed "defamation" under Resolution 2005/3 will doubtless be deemed incitement under Resolution 16/18.

This shift in focus from "defamation" to "incitement" -- something the OIC has been pursuing since April 2009 -- is hugely significant as the ICCPR specifically mandates that incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence be prohibited by law (ICCPR Article 20.2).

DIALOGUE BEGINS

In line with Item VII (Combating Islamophobia) point 4 of the OIC's 10 year plan (Dakar 2005), Article 9 of Resolution 16/18 "Calls for strengthened international efforts to foster a global dialogue for the promotion of a culture of tolerance and peace at all levels, based on respect for human rights and diversity of religions and beliefs . . ."

The first meeting pursuant of Resolution 16/18 took place in Istanbul on 15 July 2011 and was co-chaired by OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"The test would lie in the implementation", said Ihsanoglu, adding that there was a delicate balance between freedom of expression and incendiary speech. "We continue to be particularly disturbed by attitudes of certain individuals or groups exploiting the freedom of expression to incite hatred by demonizing purposefully [defaming?] the religions and their followers." (emphasis mine)

See: OIC, West pledge to combat intolerance
arabnews.com 16 July 2011

ArabNews reports: "Speaking of the United States, Clinton said: 'We have seen in the United States how the incendiary actions of just a very few people can create wide ripples of intolerance, so we are focused on promoting interfaith education and collaboration, enforcing anti-discrimination laws, protecting the rights of all people to worship as they choose, and to use some old-fashioned techniques of peer pressure and shaming so that people don't feel that they have the support to do what we abhor.'"

The next meeting to discuss the implementation of Resolution 16/18 will held in Washington in the coming months.

The International Islamic News Agency (IINA) reports (1 Aug): "According to informed sources in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the two sides, in addition to other European parties, will hold a number of specialized meetings of experts in law and religion in order to finalize the legal aspect on how to better implement the UN resolution.

"The sources said that the upcoming meetings aim at developing a legal basis for the UN Human Rights Council's resolution which help in enacting domestic laws for the countries involved in the issue, as well as formulating international laws preventing inciting hatred resulting from the continued defamation of religions." (Emphasis mine)

IINA quoted OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu being quick to exploit Anders Behring Breivik's 22 July 2011 Oslo massacre, a tragedy Ihsanoglu cited as evidence of the danger posed by institutionalised Islamophobia. ("OIC/ Islamophobia: OIC Observatory warned wince 2009 against the growth of the extreme right in Europe, Washington plans to host a meeting on resolution opposing defamation of religions." IINA, 1 Aug 2011. NOTE: article has been removed.))

And so, while it is being hailed in the West as a victory for free speech, Resolution 16/18, "Combating intolerance . . .", is even more dangerous than resolution 2005/3, "Combating Defamation of Religion". It is in no way an OIC back-down or a breakthrough for liberty. Rather, the change in focus from defamation to incitement is not only totally consistent with OIC strategy since early 2009, but it actually advances the OIC's primary goal: the criminalisation of criticism of Islam.

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A full 2,858 word report, complete with history / background, can be found at Religious Liberty Monitoring.


Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. This article is an edited version of a posting written for her blog: Religious Liberty Monitoring .

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