IfI Press Release on the UN Resolution Against the Defamation of Religions

Institut für Islamfragen

UN Resolution Protects Islam at the Cost of Human Rights

Bonn (February 22, 2010) – Islamic forces in the UN Human Rights Commission emphatically support a definition of human rights according to the Islamic understanding of that concept. Prof. Christine Schirrmacher from the Institute of Islamic Studies draws attention to this fact on the occasion of the recently renewed UN resolution against the defamation of religions. It appears obvious, according to Schirrmacher, that, with the aid of the resolution, Islam alone is to be placed under the protection of the UN document and, in this way, is to be protected against any kind of critical confrontation, especially with political Islam. The document now issued by the UN Human Rights Commission, to be sure, speaks in its title in general terms about religions that should not be defamed, but, in the text, Islam repeatedly is mentioned exclusively, explained Schirrmacher. On the other hand, the increasing discrimination and persecution of Christian and other minorities in Islamic countries is mentioned not at all. Instead, the resolution contains a sharp condemnation of the prohibition of minarets, without mentioning Switzerland by name. As “manifestations of Islamophobia”, such discriminations could lead to a “polarization […] with dangerous unintended and unforeseen consequences”, so the paper states in a threatening undertone. The EU, the USA, and several Latin American states had voted against the draft paper submitted by the Organization of Islamic States (OIC), which was accepted with twenty affirmative votes against seventeen negative votes and eight abstentions.

Islamic States Demand Deterrent Punishment for Critics of Islam

Pakistan had submitted the draft in the name of the OIC. The Pakistani law against blasphemy threatens death for any form of criticism of Islam and, so Schirrmacher, is misused again and again for the suppression of religious minorities and unpopular persons. The fifty-seven member states of the OIC had taken up the struggle against Islamophobia into its ten-year program of action already in December, 2005, during the caricature dispute. Accordingly, it was decided that all states were to be summoned via the UN to pass laws against Islamophobia – that is, a pathological and supposedly unfounded fear of Islam – including deterrent punishments. Behind this, so Schirrmacher, is the desire to implement politically the conviction that Islam is the one religion that is perfect and superior to all others, and that regulates all of personal and social life. In the official OIC view, there thus cannot be any reasonable objections or justified fears in regard to the claim of Islam.

Human Rights only in Agreement with Sharia

An Islamization of the understanding of human rights would have serious consequences, according to Schirrmacher. In the foreword to the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights issued by the OIC in 1990, the Islamic Umma is described, with reference to the Koran, as the best community. The laws of Sharia are defined as obligatory commandments from God. Whoever keeps them worships God. Whoever disregards or violates them commits a terrible sin. Thus, according to Article 1, human beings are united through their submission to God. The right to life and physical integrity is a matter of reservation under Sharia (Art. 2). Freedom of opinion and information may “not be exploited or misused in such a way this may violate sanctities and the dignity of Prophets, undermine moral and ethical values” (Art. 22). Therefore, when Pope Benedict XVI, in his Regensburg address from September, 2006, critically examines Muhammad’s campaigns, he oversteps the limits of freedom of speech legitimated by Islam. The Danish illustrator responsible for the Muhammad caricatures also cannot plead artistic freedom on the basis of this perspective. Such a definition of human rights and such an exemption of Islam from any kind of critical examination would restrict universal human rights to a considerable degree, so Schirrmacher.

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