U.N. resolution could limit freedom of speech

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U.N. Resolution 62/154, the so-called “Combating Defamation of Religions” resolution, is once again in front of the U.N. General Assembly. It is a non-binding resolution that seeks to criminalize the right to criticize religion. It is a gross offense against humanity and is directly opposed to The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, passed by the U.N. General Assembly in 1948. 

The resolution in question was first drawn up by the Organization of Islamic Council (originally titled “Combating Defamation of Islam”) and proposed to the General Assembly by Pakistan. It has passed the General Assembly in the past and will again. Although the resolution is non-binding, it has dire implications for the world at large. 

Edmund Burke once stated, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” This resolution would make it illegal for good men and women to speak out against any atrocity committed in the name of religion. The Islamic Republic of Iran, a nation that functions under Sharia (Islamic law), sentenced three men to death for “blasphemy,” that is, speaking against Islam or its practices. It was only after considerable public outcry their sentence was reduced to mere imprisonment. 

When future fatwas are declared, such as the one calling for the death of Salman Rushdie, are we supposed to sit by, be silent and say nothing? Are we to forget, excuse or ignore the Catholic Church’s complicity during the Holocaust? Or Christians bombing abortion clinics? If this resolution carried more weight — and the Organization of Islamic Conferences has stated they would like to see this happen — then those of us who choose to criticize actions committed in the name of religion could be facing some serious problems. I refuse to sit idly by and say nothing. Any person of conscience would refuse, too.

But let us not confuse what this resolution purports to be with what it really is. It is a cry for support by totalitarian religious regimes that execute people for blaspheming. Again, the resolution is non-binding and doesn’t hold any legal weight. But it is indicative of recent public sentiment to tolerate excuses under the guise of religion. 

There are frightening capitulations made to religion in the name of tolerance. If these capitulations  continue, then I see a bleak future for men and women who have a public voice and choose to criticize religious people for their beliefs — or for actions they perform in the name of their religion. 

If tolerance is to be shown, it is to be shown to all. I may not like religion, and religious people probably don’t like me very much, but if I have to put up with their incessant proselytizing, they have to put up with my incessant, verbal disdain.

Coconino Community College
Student Housing at NAU