Support lower for U.N. text on religion defamation

Fri Dec 18, 2009 2:54pm EST
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Speaking for Islamic states, Syrian delegate Warif Halabi told the assembly that defamation of religion led to "an outright campaign of hate speech and negative stereotyping, targeting all the tenets and adherents of Islam or other religions."

"It depicts them as vicious, uncivilized and terrorists. The tool used to reach this goal is concealed under the banner of freedom of expression," she said.

No opponents of the measure spoke in Friday's assembly session. The resolution had been debated last month in an assembly committee dealing with human rights.

But Angela Wu of the Washington-based Becket Fund for Religious Liberty said the resolution "provides international cover for domestic blasphemy laws that are overbroad and easy to abuse."

"The concept of 'defamation of religions' undermines the foundations of human rights law by protecting ideas instead of people, and empowering states instead of their citizens," Wu said in a statement.

In separate votes, the assembly condemned human rights violations in North Korea and Iran.

The voting closely followed that in the assembly's rights committee last month, with Saudi Arabia, which has accused Tehran of supporting Shi'ite rebels in neighboring Yemen, again breaking ranks with most other Muslim states and backing the resolution on Iran.

(Editing by Xavier Briand)