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HKMUN 2013: Chair Report of the General Assembly Forum: Social, Cultural and Humanitarian Committee Issue: Defamation

of Religion Student Officer: Tiffany Chung Position: President of the General Assembly This guide should serve as a helpful introduction to the topic and possible questions. Independent Research is expected and encouraged.

Description of Issue
religions, symbols or venerated persons are not the bearers of rights; instead the individual is the bearer of human rights. UN Watch, 27th of September 2012 Religion has significantly contributed to modern civilization and inspires reverence from millions around the world today. Yet it also contributes to anatomization and division, having caused numerous conflicts throughout history and continues to fuel tension today. Intolerance of certain religions has caused social division, with intimidation and violence a real threat against minority religion believers in certain areas. Having debated and passed numerous resolutions regarding the Defamation of Religion, critics have decried such resolutions as censorship and an attempt to enforce worldwide blasphemy laws. Antagonization based on religion continues, both on a large, international scale and between individuals. The release of The Innocence of Muslims, an antiIslam film sparked huge riots across several Islamic countries, while Catholics and other religious groups continue to face persecution in the Peoples Republic of China. Yet the major issue delegates face regarding the Defamation of Religion is the delicate balance between article 18 of the United Nation Declaration on Human Rights stating Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and article 19, which states Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression The adoption (without a vote) of United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution (UNHRC) 16/18 on Combating Intolerance, Negative Stereotyping and Stigmatization of, and Discrimination, Incitement to Violence and Violence

Against, Persons Based on Religion or Belief prohibited actions to incite violence or discriminate based on religion or belief. While this move was supported by Western Democracies such as the United States and Germany, an OIC source stated that [the resolution]is not a substitute for an earlier resolution adopted by the UN on combating defamation of religions and that the decision regarding defamation of religions has not been abandoned. A key part of the debate is the role of Human Rights as they protect people and not ideas, can the defamation of religion therefore be against human rights? As defamation is against a religion instead of an individual, delegates will have to discuss the again delicate balance. Furthermore, as the term Defamation holds particular weight in Islam, delegates should address issues related to other religious minorities who face difficulties in achieving article 18 of the UNDHR.

Definitions of Key Terms:


Religious Defamation vs. Religious Intolerance A key distinction to be made is between Defamation and Intolerance. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has advocated for United Nations Criminalization of defamation for over a decade, but does not provide a precise definition of the term. A 2008 U.N High Commissioner for Human Rights survey that is often cited in this circumstance provides a general definition of the term In its general legal meaning, it refers to an inaccurate statement (oral, written) that is published through various means of communication (printed, audio-visual, electronic) and is intended to or actually causes harm to a persons reputation. It also found that most countries with existing anti-defamation laws addressed somewhat different phenomena and applied various terms such as contempt, ridicule, outrage and disrespect to connote defamation. Religious Intolerance can be defined as a response to religious beliefs that are thought to be objectionable, with disapproval using force or coercion. Blasphemy Laws: Laws against the denigration, insulting, lack of reverence towards a religion, religious deity or religious person. Islamaphobia Introduced in a 1991 Runnymede Trust Report, and defined as unfounded hostility towards Muslims, and therefore fear or dislike of all or most Muslims Often incorporates the following beliefs: - Islam is monolithic and cannot adapt to new realities - Islam does not share common values with other major faiths - Islam as a religion is inferior to the West. It is archaic, barbaric, and irrational. - Islam is a religion of violence and supports terrorism. - Islam is a violent political ideology. United Nations Declaration of Human Rights

A human rights document delineating thirty fundamental rights that form the basis for a democracy. Formally adopted by the United Nations on December 10, 1948, with 48 For and 8 Abstentions. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Relevant Articles of United Nation Declaration on Human Rights Article 18. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance. Article 19. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Positions of Key Member Nations and Other Bodies on the Issue:


Organization of Islamic Cooperation The Organization of Islamic Cooperation was founded in 1965 after a summit in Rabat. The aim was to safeguard cooperation and common interest. The organization has 57 members and is a major proponent of Defamation of Religion debates within the United Nations, seeing these resolutions as essential to defense of Islamic values and faith. United Nations Human Rights Council The United Nations Human Rights Council lies within United Nations mandate, and rules over Human Rights Issue, including 47 member states. So far, it has adopted numerous resolutions regarding the defamation of religion and religious intolerance. The UNHCR regards the protection of Religious believers as protected by human rights, not the protection of religious beliefs. Social, Cultural and Humanitarian Committee Also known as the Third Committee, SOCHUM works in items relating to social, humanitarian affairs and human rights issues. The Committee approved by consensus a new text on Religious Intolerance, leaving out any mention of defamation or anti-blasphemy laws. The text calls on states to implement positive measures to fight religious intolerance rather than limit debate. Pakistan

Pakistan has some of the strictest Anti-Blasphemy laws in the world, with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan estimating that around 1000 cases having been lodged for desecration of the Koran. Growing influence of organized religious groups on higher courts lead to some concern of these laws. In 2010, a member of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party Sherry Rehman attempted to introduce an amendment to the Blasphemy law which would make cases be heard immediately by higher courts (which are less influenced by organized religious groups). However, due to opposition, this bill was with frawn in February 2011. Pakistan is part of the OIC, and vehemently advocates resolutions against Defamation. President Asif Ali Zardari addressed the United Nations General Assembly and expressed strongest condemnation for the acts of incitement of hate against the faith of billions of Muslims of the world and our beloved Prophet. He called for the Assembly to criminalize such acts that destroy the peace of the world and endanger the world security by misusing freedom of expression," United States of America The United States of America sees Defamation resolutions as anti-freedom of speech and expression and therefore opposes them in favor of anti-Intolerance measures. It has pointed to the International Covenant on civil and Political Rights on occasion to highlight the narrow window of exception to the fundamental freedoms of expression or religion. Brazil While Brazil has laws against Blasphemy, it voted against the OIC introduced draft in 2009, the Brazilian representative citing that it believed the concept of the defamation of religion needed to be addressed in such a way that was not detrimental to other rights. Instead, they supported the EU proposed Religious Intolerance resolution. Representative Adorno noted that for Brazil, religious freedom is an individual, not community right and all individuals have a right to express their views on religion Denmark Laws in Denmark make it illegal to mock legal religions and faiths in Denmark", with an attempt to overturn it in 2004 being unsuccessful. However, it has continued to oppose General Assembly resolutions on Defamation of religion , expressing its commitment to freedom of expression while continuing the widespread violence against Denmark in response to the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons which depicted the Prophet Muhammed.

Main Issues
Religion vs. The Religious The main issue of contention is whether Religion, and not the religious, should be protected. While defamation of religion can lead to anger and violence, is it the act of insulting the religion that should be legislated against, or the

incitement of violence? Furthermore, as Human rights protect people, and not ideas, can the Universal Declaration of Human Rights be used in argument for resolutions against Defamation of Religion? Some groups have cited resolutions against defamation of religion as a key step to addressing religious persecution and discrimination, and say that is ample reason to restrict religious freedom and free expression. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon referred to the maker of an anti-Islam film that triggered violent protests across the Muslim world had abused his freedom of expression by making the movie. Freedom of Expression vs. Religious Freedom The use of Freedom of Expression is a key argument against Defamation of religion. Opponents cite the stifling of discussion and international legitimization of religious persecution as major issues and argue that many governments in support of such international legislature are often religious governments which make use of such law to ban criticism of the government. They cite the deviation from human rights by protecting religious institutions instead of individuals. On the other hand, Proponents argue that attempts to associate certain erligions with terrorism or violence had led to physical attracts on businesses, places of worship and adherents. Islamic Focus As Blasphemy and Defamation are both ideas in Islam, and most defamation resolutions have been sponsored or introduced by OIC countries, some have questioned whether the Defamation of Religion is accountable to all world religions. Delegates should note that at least 30 countries have anti-blasphemy legislation written into their penal codes, with many outlawing defamation of all legal and recognized religions.

Topics for Possible Resolution


Defining Defamation of Religion As of now, there is no internationally recognized definition of Defamation of Religion. This has made garnering support for resolutions, discussions and research difficult. There is a very wide range of approaches delegates could take. Firstly, consider how to strike the balance between freedoms of expression vs. protection of religion. Delegates should keep in mind that freedom of expression has been breached before in order to protect, and to assess whether defamation of religion fits the criteria on whether to suspend the freedom. Secondly, the issue of whether to approach the issues as the UN has often done, taking an Islam-centric approach and focusing the issue on the perceptions of Islam with heavy religious undertones. Given that religious persecution is an issue for many diverse religions internationally and for many different reasons,

it would be a shame to focus on one facet of the issue. The wide range of countries that have a wide range of blasphemy laws should be ample inspiration for delegates who wish to form an Anti-Defamation resolution. Delegates should keep in mind the difference between Intolerance and Defamation, and continue to remember the aim is to ensure religious freedom and safety for adherents. There should also be discussion on the impact of this resolution, and the practicalities of its implementation. A note to delegates Ive separated this section into Resources and Bibliography. The resources are what I think will be helpful reading, and Bibliography is a comprehensive list of resources I accessed while writing this research guide.

Resources
http://blog.unwatch.org/index.php/category/defamation-of-religion/ http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/2012/11/28/human-rights-first-welcomes-new-u-n-texton-religious-intolerance/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defamation_of_religion_and_the_United_Nations http://www.harvard-jlpp.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/LeoFinal.pdf http://www.uscirf.gov/images/uscirf%20policy%20focus%20defamation%202010%20up date.pdf (This file is especially useful for the delegates of the United States of America)

Bibliography http://crg.berkeley.edu/content/islamophobia/defining-islamophobia http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/ http://www.emory.edu/EMORY_REPORT/erarchive/2001/April/erApril.2 /4_2_01tolerance.html http://www.uscirf.gov/reports-and-briefs/special-reports/3787-be-studyof-comparative-constitutions-for-muslim-countries-august-2012update.html http://www.harvard-jlpp.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/LeoFinal.pdf http://www.humanrights.gov/2012/04/19/1618-report/ http://eclj.org/PDF/OICDefamationofReligionsResolution03-12-09.pdf http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/2012/11/28/human-rights-firstwelcomes-new-u-n-text-on-religious-intolerance/ http://cnsnews.com/news/article/islamic-bloc-revives-drive-outlawreligious-defamation-worldwide http://blog.unwatch.org/index.php/category/defamation-of-religion/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defamation_of_religion_and_the_United_Nati ons http://www.jta.org/news/article/2008/11/20/1001103/op-ed-dontdefend-religion-by-silencing-free-speech