GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations top human rights body condemned “defamation” of religion on Friday and, in an apparent reference to the storm over the Prophet cartoons, said press freedom had its limits.
With the support of China, Russia and Cuba, Moslem and Arab states comfortably won a vote on the 47-state Human Rights Council to express concern at “negative stereotyping” of religions and “attempts to identify Islam with terrorism”.
“The resolution is tabled in the expectation that it will compel the international community to acknowledge and address the disturbing phenomena of the defamation of religions, especially Islam,” said Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
The resolution was opposed by Western states which said it focused too much on Islam. The job of the Council was to deal with the rights of individuals not religions, they said.
“The European Union does not see the concept of defamation of religion as a valid one in a human rights discourse,” a spokeswoman for the delegation of Germany, which holds the EU presidency, told the Council.
The resolution urged countries to ensure their laws gave adequate protection against acts of “hatred, discrimination, intimidation and coercion resulting from defamation of religions”.
While everybody had the right to freedom of expression, this should be exercised according to limitations of the law and respect for others, including respect for religions and beliefs, it said.
In 2006, violent protests rocked cities from Morocco to Malaysia over Danish cartoons of Islam’s Prophet Mohammad published in September 2005, which Muslims regarded as sacrilegious and an attack on their beliefs.
The vote was 24 countries in favor of the resolution, 14 against and with 9 abstentions.