- UNHRC to choose between defending human rights and Islamising human rights.
By: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal
This posting examines the 21 August 2007 report presented to the sixth session
of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) by "the Special Rapporteur on
contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related
intolerance, Doudou Diene, on the manifestations of defamation of religions
and in particular on the serious implications of Islamophobia on the enjoyment
of all rights".
This report was "submitted pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 4/9
entitled 'Combating defamation of religions', in which the Council invited the
Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination,
xenophobia and related intolerance to report on all manifestations of
defamation of religions and in particular on the serious implications of
Islamophobia on the enjoyment of all rights at its sixth session".
Doudou Diene's report should be studied by all religious liberty advocates and
everyone else interested in free speech. Diene postulates that "defamation" of
Islam generates dangerous Islamophobia, which leads to the repression of
Muslim rights and in turn drives Muslims to extremism. This forms the
foundation for his recommendation that our international human rights
covenants be reinterpreted and amended.
I would propose that the very heart of the issue is not "defamation" of Islam
or "baseless" Islamophobia, but the fact that the dictators of Islam are now
as ever consumed with and driven by "apostaphobia"!
Indeed the new openness brought to the world through globalisation and
developments in information and communication technologies is causing the
power stakeholders and religious dictators of the non-free world to be
seriously gripped by apostaphobia: a well-founded fear of loss of adherents,
which is manifested primarily as uncompromising repression and denial of
fundamental liberties, by violent and subversive means.
The UNHRC must add "apostaphobia" to its vocabulary. Further to that, the
UNHRC must confront apostaphobia by upholding the international human rights
covenants that protect the fundamental, universal right of individuals to
religious liberty, not seek to reinterpret and amend those covenants to
protect religions and apostaphobic religious dictators from the threat posed
to them by religious liberty.
UNHRC REPORT A/HRC/6/6
The text of the 21 August 2007 report to the sixth session of the United
Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) can be found at:
< http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/6session/reports.htm >.
The relevant report is A/HRC/6/6
SUMMARY OF MAJOR PROBLEMS
There are numerous problems with Doudou Diene's report. This list is
selective, not exhaustive.
Before even turning the first page it important to ask whether it is
appropriate to link (even by association) racism and racial discrimination
with defamation of religion and Islamophobia, as race is a totally separate
issue from religion. Beliefs should always be open to critical analysis in
the pursuit of truth. All efforts to tie religion to race should be rejected.
Right from the beginning the report takes aim at "democratic parties",
"governmental alliances", "traditionally democratic parties" (par 6), but
nowhere does it challenge totalitarian regimes and religious dictatorships
(governmental and non-governmental). It is from within this context the
report criticises the "dogmatic rejection of multiculturalism", the defence of
value-based identity (par 7), and the curtailing of civil liberties to
preserve national security (par 8). In other words, it is quite clear that
Diene's criticisms relate to democratic, multicultural states such as the US,
Canada, Britain or Denmark, not states such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt or Libya.
Also the use of the word defamation is highly contentious. Defamation relates
to damaging slander or libel, which is by definition false. Using the word
"defamation" implies that damaging lies are being propagated. Any effort to
redefine offence, criticism or questioning as defamation must also be
rejected. People should be free to debate and explore the truth or otherwise
of claims against religions. However, Diene's use of the terms "ideological
violence" and "intellectual violence" (par 9) give some indication of how he
might view such debate (at least when non-Judeo-Christian religions are the
Under the heading "Forms of Religious Discrimination", Diene notes (par 13):
"Defamation provides the intellectual justification and legitimising discourse
that support all forms of discrimination." This statement is absolutely true,
but only if "defamation" is correctly defined as damaging slander or libel
(falsehoods). WEA RLC has long held that "disinformation" (information that is
false and intended to mislead or deceive) is frequently the first step on the
slippery slope towards discrimination and persecution. WEA RLC advocates
religious liberty, rule of law, and openness in pursuit of truth, as the most
effective means of combating disinformation. That is a totally different
perspective from that of Diene and the Organisation of Islamic Conference.
ISLAMOPHOBIA, ANTI-SEMITISM, CHRISTIANOPHOBIA
According to the report, "defamation" of Islam gives rise to Islamophobia
which in turn drives Muslims to "extremism" (par 17). In other words, the
cycle of Islamic "extremism" starts with non-Muslims, who must therefore
ultimately be held accountable for it.
Special Rapporteur Diene proposes (par 19) that Islamophobia be defined as "a
baseless hostility and fear vis-a-vis Islam, and as a result a fear of and
aversion towards all Muslims or the majority of them . . . " Thus from the
very outset, fear of Islam is said to be "baseless", and fear of Islam
inherently is manifested as an "aversion towards Muslims". As generalisations,
both are untrue.
Without mentioning Islamic imperialism, jihads and dhimmitude, Diene comments
that Islamophobia dates back to the first encounters between Islam and other
religions. He cites the Crusades as an example of early Islamophobia without
acknowledging that, for all their failings, the successful Crusades in Spain
and the unsuccessful Crusades to the Holy Land were nothing more than
counterinsurgencies in response to imperialistic Islamic jihads.
Reality-reversal, denial and bias pervade the report.
Diene also claims that contemporary Islamophobia is a consequence of the "Cold
War-type of ideology" that perpetuates the "clash of civilisations and
religions" theory. He says: "The bottom line of this dogma is the relentless
characterisation and portrayal of Islam as possessing values that are
fundamentally opposed to those of Western civilisation which is postulated as
rooted in Christianity." Diene blames this dogma, not Islamic imperialism,
repression and terrorism, for Islamophobia. (His quotes in paragraph 21 look
like a veiled reference to the courageous Syrian-born critic of Islam, Dr Wafa
Sultan < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WLoasfOLpQ >).
Diene claims that Islamophobia is on the rise due to the "intellectual
legitimisation" and "political tolerance" of it (pars 23-27). He claims that
"so-called intellectuals" are issuing "openly Islamophobic statements" that
are "falsely claimed to be scientific or scholarly in order to give
intellectual clout to arguments that link Islam to violence and terrorism.
Furthermore, the manipulation and selective quoting of sacred texts, in
particular the Koran, as a means to deceptively argue that these texts show
the violent nature of Islam has become current practice" (par 23). Without
analysing or judging the 9/11 terror attacks on the USA, he questions whether
the events of 9/11, after being manipulated by the media, may have "reawakened
a repressed crusading mentality" (par 24).
According to Diene, anti-Semitism predominantly stems from "political rather
than religious or racial motives" (par 38). This entirely and conveniently
circumvents the problem and the reality of the inherently anti-Semitic nature
of the Qur'an.
According to Diene's report, Arab-Muslim anti-Semitism is not ideological but
political and "reinforced by the daily images of the tragedy of the continuous
occupation and suffering of the Palestinian people" (par 39); i.e it is not
"baseless" but justified and its escalation is Israel's fault. (Earlier Diene
accused the media of manipulating the events of 9/11 to make Islam look bad.
However, there is no suggestion here of media bias or manipulation to make
Muslims look like victims.) Meanwhile, he asserts that European anti-Semitism
"has little, if any, relation to opposition to Israel" (par 42). Rather,
contrary to Arab-Muslim anti-Semitism, European Neo-Nazism is pure racism.
Diene incorrectly associates the rise of the swastika in India with
anti-Semitism when it is actually pure Hindu fascism, the primary victims of
which are Indian Christians.
Diene makes it quite clear that like anti-Semitism and contrary to
Islamophobia, Christianophobia is not for one moment baseless or unjustified.
Diene attributes Christianophobia to "the aggressive proselytism of certain
evangelical groups" (par 45). Diene also attributes Christianophobia to the
era of Christian-European colonisation and the current debate about the
Christian ("value-based") identity of Europe (par 46).
Diene reports (par 48) that "aggressive proselytism of certain evangelical
groups, particularly from North America" has resulted in Christianophobia in
"South America, Africa and Asia" (note: the Middle East is not on his list).
In another case of reality-reversal he asserts (par 48) that evangelical
groups in India exploit freedom of expression to disseminate literature
against Hinduism, and that this has favoured the emergence of Hindutva
(militant Hindu nationalism) which has arisen out of the need to protect
India's identity as a Hindu nation. (Note: Diene does not object to a
"value-based identity" for Hindu India!) He adds: "The conversion of Dalits to
Christianity to escape their deeply rooted discrimination is to be analysed in
In the section headed "Other forms of religious-based discrimination", Diene
criticises "powerful evangelical groups, mostly from the United States of
America" who exploit anti-poverty programs as they "campaign to demonise
Voodoo". He criticises the colonial-era mentality that seeks to demonise
Afro-American syncretistic religious and spiritual traditions as irrational,
inhumane and barbarous (par 52).
RECOMMENDATION TO AMEND THE COVENANTS
The report's punch-line is Diene's recommendation that our international human
rights covenants be reinterpreted and amended. Paragraph 77 on page 20 reads:
"In the light of the polarised and confrontational readings of these articles
["international instruments, and in particular articles 18, 19 and 20 of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights"
< http://www.ohchr.org/english/law/ccpr.htm> ] the UNHRC should "promote a more
profound reflection on their interpretation". Diene recommends that the UNHRC
"consider the possibility of adopting complementary standards on the
interrelations between freedom of expression, freedom of religion and
non-discrimination, and in particular by drafting a general comment on article
Article 20 of the ICCPR states:
1. Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.
2. Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes
incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.
Any effort to include "defamation" of religion (especially when defamation is
undefined, or defined as mere offence, criticism or questioning) in the same
category as "propaganda for war" or "incitement . . . to violence" would serve
those forces from Vietnam to Egypt that seek to make religious liberty an
issue not of fundamental, universal human rights, but of national security.
This recommendation will no doubt be discussed in the next session of the
UNHRC. It is likely to elicit a resolution to draft an amendment to the UDHR
and the ICCPR, one the forces of liberty may not have the numbers to defeat.
If that is the case, the Islamisation of international human rights will have
UN Human Rights Council: Protecting Religion. 12 April 2007
WEA RLC News & Analysis, by Elizabeth Kendal
Islam at the Human Rights Commission. 21 June 2006
By Roy Brown, past President of the International Humanist and Ethical Union,
Head of IHEU's UN NGO Delegation at Geneva, Chair of IHEU's Committee for
Growth and Development. http://www.iheu.org/node/2269
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