It is our duty to keep law and order and faithfully guard the safety of every citizen. Hate is one of the many sources of disrupting peace in a society and it is our responsibility to track down the source of such hate and work on mitigating it. We have an obligation to maintain a balance in the society.
The Civil rights in America did change one's attitude towards African Americans and other Minorities, over generations the apparently restrictive laws have become a norm of civility. In India the laws pulled the untouchables out of inhumanity onto a level playing field. The realizations are not complete but significant. I was just out with the Memnosyne Foundation to visit the indigenous people of the Maya and Toltec traditions, they are not even allowed to worship in their own temples as the dominant group looks down on the very tradition they robbed their living from.
The Zoroastrians consider Alexander the great as the Alexander the Barbarian, and in the film posters of the movie Alexander, he stood in front of the farohar (Zoroastrian symbol), and I was involved in the petition to have the poster modified. It was offensive to the Zoroastrians.
There are strong laws against speaking negatively about Holocaust; it has shut out the marginal voices leaving a few who continue to be vulgar about the tragedy. Should we not have laws to give freedom to the people of Amazon basin to speak their own language?
Should we let freedom of speech reign over the anti-Semitism in Europe that led to one of the shameful tragedies of humanity; the Holocaust?
Are we right in banning the pornography?
What are the justifications for that?
If the laws were to be instituted against defamation of religions, would that lead to shutting down of hate mongers? Would it prevent people from drawing cartoons of Muhammad, printing Shiva on sandals, or mimickers of Christ? Would it decimate hurling insults on others and pave the way for civility? Would that prevent hate sermons of killing the infidels? Would it prevent hurling insults against pagans? Would it prevent using derogatory terms against idol worshipping? Would it prevent idea of harvesting the poor souls?
Should we consider restricting speech in the above instances an impediment to freedom? Or shall we consider it as protecting the freedom of the people from recieving humiliation?
Should our laws be designed to prevent exceptions or for the sustenance of generalities?
Should our laws be designed for the general good of the societies that would lead to orderly societies?
I am more inclined to support the freedom of speech, hoping civility would ultimately prevail. As Mahatma Gandhi had Quoted the Bhagvad Gita "Satyameva Jayate", Truth ultimately prevails, in this case civility ultimately prevails. However, we cannot be blind to many a laws that have been the catalyst in bringing about a positive change.
Mike Ghouse is a thinker, writer speaker and an activist of pluralism, interfaith, co-existence, peace, Islam and India. He is a frequent guest at the TV, radio and print media offering pluralistic solutions to issues of the day. His websites and Blogs are listed on http://www.mikeghouse.net/
The Dangerous Idea of Protecting Religions from “Defamation”
A Threat to Universal Human Rights Standards
In advance of the upcoming vote on this issue in the UN General Assembly, USCIRF issued the following Policy Focus explaining the problems with the idea that religions should be protected from "defamation."
Over the past decade, countries from the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) have been working through the United Nations system to advance the problematic idea that there should be laws against the so-called “defamation of religions.” Although touted as a solution to the very real problems of religious persecution and discrimination, the OIC-sponsored UN resolutions on this issue instead provide justification for governments to restrict religious freedom and free expression. They also provide international legitimacy for existing national laws that punish blasphemy or otherwise ban criticism of a religion, which often have resulted in gross human rights violations. These resolutions deviate sharply from universal human rights standards by seeking to protect religious institutions and interpretations, rather than individuals, and could help create a new international anti-blasphemy norm.
In addition to seeking a new norm through these resolutions, OIC countries have argued in various UN contexts that existing international standards prohibiting advocacy of hatred and incitement already outlaw “defamation of religions.” However, the provisions on which they rely—Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 4 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)—provide only limited exceptions to the fundamental freedoms of expression and religion. These provisions were intended to protect individuals from violence or discrimination, not to protect religious institutions or ideas from criticism, and they should not be expanded to cover allegedly religiously defamatory speech. Such an expansion, which unfortunately may have been lent support by new language on negative religious stereotyping and incitement in a recent UN Human Rights Council freedom of expression resolution, would undermine international human rights guarantees, including the freedom of religion. It also would undermine the institutions that protect universal human rights worldwide.
Please click here to download USCIRF Policy Focus - The Dangerous Idea of Protecting Religions from “Defamation”
USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the leadership of both political parties in the Senate and the House of Representatives. USCIRF’s principal responsibilities are to review the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom internationally and to make policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress.
To interview a USCIRF Commissioner, contact Tom Carter, Communications Director at email@example.com or (202) 523-3257.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom was created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to monitor the status of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief abroad, as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related international instruments, and to give independent policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress.
Visit our Web site at www.uscirf.gov
Leonard A. Leo, Chair • Michael Cromartie, Vice Chair • Elizabeth H. Prodromou, Vice Chair
Don Argue • Imam Talal Y. Eid • Felice D. Gaer • Richard D. Land
Nina Shea • Knox Thames, Acting Executive Director
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