By Vic Rosenthal
The UN Human Rights Commission suggests that freedom of speech can go too far:
GENEVA (Reuters) – The United Nations top human rights body condemned “defamation” of religion on Friday and, in an apparent reference to the storm over the Prophet cartoons, said press freedom had its limits.
With the support of China, Russia and Cuba, Moslem and Arab states comfortably won a vote on the 47-state Human Rights Council to express concern at “negative stereotyping” of religions and “attempts to identify Islam with terrorism.”
The resolution was opposed by Western states which said it focused too much on Islam. The job of the Council was to deal with the rights of individuals not religions, they said.
“The European Union does not see the concept of defamation of religion as a valid one in a human rights discourse,” a spokeswoman for the delegation of Germany, which holds the EU presidency, told the Council.
The Muslim nations are uncomfortable with Western standards of free speech. But I think they are not drawing the proper distinctions. Westerners are quite concerned with defamatory speech; some, calling it ‘political correctness’ say that this concern has gone too far. But the dominant western political culture draws a careful distinction between religion, which is considered a highly personal matter, and politics. It is considered not at all defamatory to criticize someone’s politics.
There are about 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, and many of them (nobody knows how many) believe that Islam requires them to wage violent jihad against, for example, Jews, or Europeans, or Americans. This point of view seems to be becoming more and more popular lately. Since this jihad is mostly carried out by terrorism, one can understand how Islam comes to be identified with it.
From time to time Muslim and Arab nations issue statements that they are “against all forms of terrorism”, meaning that they are opposed to Israeli self-defense and possibly a few wackos on their own side. But in fact Saudi Arabia (for only one example) officially espouses an interpretation of Islam which calls for violent jihad, and spends millions each year exporting it and supporting it throughout the world. So we are not just talking about a few wackos.
These nations would like to make it officially proscribed to criticize their aggressive jihad, on the grounds that it’s religion. But the world should recognize that they’ve crossed the line into politics, indeed, into political goals achieved by military means which include terrorism as a favored tactic. They must not be granted immunity from criticism.