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UN ‘Religious Defamation’ Decree Poses Threats, Panel Says

ICC Note

Muslim countries are using the United Nations’ system to enact laws that restrict freedom of religion of Christians and other non-Muslims. The Christians in the West and elsewhere should lobby their governments to stop such a move.

By Fred Lucas

07/15/2008 Islam (CNSNews.com) – A Canadian journalist faces 16 civil complaints, has been investigated by 50 government bureaucrats, sat through a 90-minute hearing and, at worst, could go to prison for nine months.

Ezra Levant’s offense was republishing in early 2006 editorial cartoons of Mohammed, the prophet of Islam, which initially had sparked riots after a Danish newspaper first published them in September 2005.

The cartoons were published in Levant’s magazine The Western Standard in the context of a news story explaining the controversy, Levant said. But then numerous Canadian Muslim clerics filed complaints against him with the Alberta Human Rights Commission, and Levant has spent the last two-and-a-half years dealing with legal matters.

Levant spoke at a panel Friday in Washington , D.C. , sponsored by the Congressional Human Rights Caucus Task Force on International Religious Freedom, which was convened to discuss resolutions at the United Nations against the defamation of religion.

Resolutions, pushed largely by Muslim countries, were passed by the General Assembly last December and by the U.N. Human Rights Council in March.

“This is a soft jihad. It’s law-fare,” Levant said. “It could be a greater threat to our civil liberties than hard jihad.”

Explaining why the U.N. resolution could be a problem, Sandra Bunn-Livingstone, former director of Multilateral and European Affairs at the U.S. State Department, warned, “You’re taking state apostasy and anti-conversion law at the local level, and you’re internationalizing it.”

She stressed that the existing U.N. International Declaration of Human Rights includes freedom of religion and freedom of opinion, which religious defamation laws could infringe upon.

“The way to defend against defamation is truth,” said Bunn-Livinstone, now the executive director of Human Dignity International, a human rights group. “Religion is belief, an opinion,” she said.

However, “Islamaphobia” is a growing problem in several countries, said Mudassir Tipu, representing the Pakistan Embassy. She spoke strongly in favor of the U.N. resolution against religious defamation.

The real question may be if religion can be defamed, said Angela Wu, acting executive director at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a conservative group.

He cited other Canadian cases: a gag order was imposed on a pastor for criticizing homosexuality, and an 80-year-old man was put in jail for refusing to change an anti-Semitic message on his answering machine.

He further warned that what happens in Canada could happen in the United States .

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