The UK, the U.S. and the European Union have voted against a United Nations resolution that condemns Quran burnings and calls on states to ban them as hate crimes.
The Pakistani-sponsored resolution was passed by the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva this morning, but several Western countries objected.
The resolution states that it is “offensive, disrespectful, a clear act of provocation and a manifestation of religious hatred to deliberately and publicly burn the Holy Quran or any other holy book with the intent to incite discrimination, hostility or violence, and affirming also that this act shall be prohibited by law, in line with the obligations of states arising from international human rights law.”
The resolution was adopted with 28 countries voting in favour, 12 countries voting against, and seven countries abstaining at the 53rd regular session of the UN Human Rights Council.
Countries that voted in favour of the resolution included Algeria, Argentina, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Cameroon, China, Ivory Coast, Cuba, Eritrea, Gabon, Gambia, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Morocco, Pakistan, Qatar, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
Belgium, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Romania, the UK, and the U.S. voted against the resolution.
The United States and the European Union said the resolution conflicts with their positions on human rights and freedom of expression.
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“We know from experience that attempting to ban such expression actually usually amplifies it further by bringing even more attention to it and often serves as a catalyst for further hatred,” said Rashad Hussain, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, expressing U.S. opposition to so-called “blasphemy” laws.
“Such laws also fail to address the underlying causes of bigotry,” he said, calling instead for efforts to “reinvigorate education and interfaith intercultural dialogue to confront hate speech.”
However, Michele Taylor, the U.S. ambassador to the council, said that the United States “strongly condemns the acts that have precipitated today’s discussion, including desecration of the Holy Quran on June 28” — a reference to an incident in Sweden last month that fanned protest across the Muslim world.
After the vote, Ambassador Khalil Hashmi of Pakistan insisted the measure “does not seek to curtail the right to free speech,” but tries to strike a “prudent balance” between it and “special duties and responsibilities.”
“The opposition of a few in the room has emanated from their unwillingness to condemn the public desecration of the Holy Quran or any other religious book,” Hashmi said. “They lack political, legal and moral courage to condemn this act, and it was the minimum that the council could have expected from them.”
And addressing the Human rights council yesterday, Volker Turk, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said: “This urgent debate was prompted by recent incidents of burning of the Quran, which was the core of faith for well over one billion people. These and other incidents appeared to have been manufactured to express contempt and inflame anger; to drive wedges between people; and to provoke, transforming differences of perspective into hatred and, perhaps, violence.”
Mr Türk said the limitation of any kind of speech or expression must remain an exception – particularly since laws limiting speech are often misused by those in power, including to stifle debate on critical issues. But on the other hand, an act of speech, in the specific circumstances, could constitute incitement to action on the part of others — in some cases, very violent and discriminatory action.
“Advocacy of hatred that constituted incitement to violence, discrimination and hostility should be prohibited in every state,” he said.
SOURCE: AA and 5Pillars