Thursday, 17 June 2010

Discriminatory regimes continue to push anti-discrimination agenda at UN

I see the Organisation of Islamic Conference are up to their usual tricks again, abusing the UN Council on Human Rights to push the pernicious notion that "defamation of religion" - in other words, anything remotely critical of either Islam or their own countries' dubious human rights records - should be an international crime on a par with genocide.

Earlier this week, a delegate from Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the organisation, told the UNCHR meeting in Geneva that "defamation of religions" (by which he meant Islam) was "the latest manifestation of discrimination, intolerance and xenophobia" and had "increased substantively in the past few years". Lest there be any doubt what he was referring to, he complained that anti-religious statements were "being defended under the garb of freedom of expression." He further claimed that


The simple-minded equation of Islam and the entire Muslim community with terrorism was illogical, ethically reprehensible, and intellectually dishonest since it led to ignoring the political basis of terrorism, and to de-legitimise the political content of their programme. The international community must address the root causes of terrorism, such as the situations of grave injustices and repression affecting Muslims, and conditions of poverty and lack of opportunity, which bred extremism and terrorism.


In other words, on the one hand it's wrong to claim that Islam and terrorism had anything to do with one another; and on the other hand, terrorism was the result of justified political grievances, especially "grave injustices and repression affecting Muslims". Some contradiction there, I fear.

Meanwhile, an Egyptian delegate was

...dismayed at instances of religious and cultural prejudices, intolerance and discrimination on the basis of religions or beliefs or different systems. Egypt expressed its concern at the negative stereotyping of religions, insults to and defamation of religious personalities, holy books, scriptures and symbols. It deplored all acts of ideological and physical violence and assaults against persons on the basis of their religions or beliefs.

Does that deploration stretch to the bouts of violence and increasingly routine persecution to which Egypt's Coptic Christians have been subjected in recent years? For that matter, did the Pakistani delegate feel any sense of shame at his country's treatment of religious minorities, not just Christians but also Ahmadis - who call themselves Muslims yet who are regarded by Pakistani law as second-class citizens, an attitude that legitimizes murderous acts such as the recent bombing of an Ahmadi mosque? As so often, the hypocrisy of such people is simply breathtaking. They are, however, sure of the support of the majority of UN member states, who will happily vote for any resolution that looks anti-Western.

Of course, it's a dangerous thing to associate Islam with acts of terrorism. But the link only exists because of people who persist in appealing to their religion while blowing things up or shooting people, who record "martyrdom videos", who form themselves into angry groups (constantly renamed to circumvent government bans) to celebrate acts of terror abroad or heckle returning British troops. But then what was the Pakistani delegate doing when he told the UN meeting that terrorist acts were caused by the repression of "Muslims", if not associating Islam with terrorism? He was not wrong when he said that Muslims were repressed in many countries, or that violent unrest was often a response to repressive government. But in no country are Muslims repressed simply for being Muslims.

Religiously-motivated repression of that kind exists only in Muslim countries, and its victims are either members of other faiths, non-believers (Roy Brown of the International Humanist and Ethical Union told the meeting that "at least three Member States of the Council had laws in place that prescribed the death penalty for those who declared themselves to be non-believers") or, in the case of the Ahmadis, deviant Muslims. By and large, though, Muslim victims of repression share their religion with those who are repressing them - their own corrupt, undemocratic and hypocritical governments. I'm thinking especially of Egypt and Pakistan, naturally, but one could add to them Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan... The countries, in fact, who make most noise about the alleged problem of "defamation of religion". It's a classic diversionary tactic.