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UN Human Rights Council Adopts Resolution on Freedom of Belief That Drops “Defamation of Religion” Concept
By Haward Friedman   |  Mar 26, 2011

In a major policy shift, the 47-member United Nations Human Rights Council yesterday unanimously adopted a Resolution on Freedom of Religion or Belief which omits any reference to the concept of “defamation of religion” and instead focuses on the individual’s right to freedom of belief. Reuters and the Washington Post both quote the U.S.-based Human Rights First campaign that called the resolution “a huge achievement because…it focuses on the protection of individuals rather than religions.”

For many years, the Organization of the Islamic Conference had pressed to create a concept of “defamation of religion” that has been widely criticized in the United States and by a number of other Western countries. Muslim countries set aside that 12-year campaign and joined in approving yesterday’s resolution.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom issued a statement applauding the Human Rights Council’s action. USCIRF said in part that it welcomes the Council’s “significant step away from the pernicious ‘defamation of religions’ concept.” It explained:

The defamation concept undermines individual rights to freedom of religion and expression; exacerbates religious intolerance, discrimination, and violence; and provides international support for domestic blasphemy laws that often have led to gross human rights abuses. The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has promoted this flawed concept at the United Nations for more than a decade.

USCIRF and others, including the State Department, members of Congress, and NGOs, have worked hard against the defamation of religions concept for years. USCIRF specifically applauds Secretary Clinton and her team for today’s result. We also thank Representatives Eliot Engel (D-NY), Christopher Smith (R-NJ), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), and Frank Wolf (R-VA), for their leadership roles on this issue….