Amid all the criticism that this site has given to President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, it is time to recognize them when they get it right on an issue. Such is the case with the efforts of the Organization of the Islamic Conference's effort to get the UN Human Rights Council to pass a defamation of religions resolution, which could in effect, lead to worldwide criminal penalties against those who criticize one religion-Islam. Yesterday, the Obama administration and the US State Department came out strongly against this measure to their credit.
Our government has taken a position saying that the measure would take away free speech and thus, go too far.
"Some claim that the best way to protect the freedom of religion is to implement so-called anti-defamation policies that would restrict freedom of expression and the freedom of religion," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters. "I strongly disagree."
Clinton added that the US was opposed to negative depictions of specific religions and would fight against faith-based discrimination. But she said a person's ability to practice their religion was entirely unrelated to another person's right to free speech.
"The protection of speech about religion is particularly important since persons of different faith will inevitably hold divergent views on religious questions," Clinton said. "These differences should be met with tolerance, not with the suppression of discourse."
Michael Posner, the assistant U.S. Secretary of State for Human Rights, Democracy and Labour, said the resolution "goes too far."
"The notion that a religion can be defamed and that any comments that are negative about that religion can constitute a violation of human rights to us violates the core principle of free speech," he said.
"There are limits to free expression and there are certainly concerns about people targeting individuals because of their religious belief or their race or their ethnicity," Posner added.
"But at the same time, we're also clear that a resolution, broadly speaking, that talks about the defamation of a religion is a violation of free speech."
The Organization of the Islamic Conference is a 56-nation bloc of predominantly Islamic nations that is trying to push this measure within the UN. Though the measure, on its surface, would apply to all religions, make no mistake. It would only be enforced when the religion "defamed" is Islam. It is one not so small step toward the imposition of Shariah law directed against non-Muslims.
Kudos to the Obama administration and Department of State for speaking out against it. It is hoped that they will continue to oppose this dangerous measure.