For twelve years, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, 57 nations strong, had campaigned in the United Nations General Assembly and the Human Rights Council for resolutions denouncing the "defamation of religions" as a threat to human dignity. Arguing that such protection was necessary to defend Islam and other religions against criticism that caused offence to believers, they sought to have it enshrined among U.N. human rights standards.
This year, the Organization of the Islamic Conference dropped this demand. Instead, the OIC submitted a resolution that condemns any advocacy of religious hatred, or incitement to hostility or violence against believers, and calls on governments to act to prevent discrimination on the basis of religion or belief. In other words, the new resolution no longer calls for the protection of the beliefs, but rather the believers. The Human Rights Council passed the new resolution by consensus.
In the past, Western countries fought fiercely against passing a "Defamation of Religions" resolution, believing that it would impinge on the right to free speech while justifying the persecution of religious dissent. Indeed, it would validate the arguments of those bent on passing or enforcing blasphemy laws and laws designed to control or eliminate religious minorities.
"The United States strongly supports today’s resolution, which rejects the broad prohibitions on speech called for in the former "defamation of religions" resolution, and supports approaches that do not limit freedom of expression or infringe on the freedom of religion," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
"This resolution demonstrates a desire to move the debate on these shared challenges in a constructive and affirmative direction. Our divides can be bridged through an effort to listen to each other and to seek common ground. This resolution is a direct result of this type of engagement with the global community.
"[The] adoption of this resolution by the UN Human Rights Council is an important statement that must be followed by sustained commitment," said Secretary Clinton.
"At a time when violence and discrimination against members of religious minorities is all too common, we urge the international community to continue to uphold the freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," she said. "We must support those who are willing to stand up on behalf of the rights we cherish."