PHILADELPHIA – The Legal Project has joined the Becket Fund for Religious Freedom and over 100 other non-governmental organizations from around the world, in a joint statement decrying the danger to free speech rights posed by a series of pending UN resolutions prohibiting defamation of religions.
On October 29, 2009, Syria, along with Venezuela and Belarus, proposed a resolution entitled "Combating defamation of religions" to the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly. Among other things, the resolution condemns any organization "perpetuating stereotypes about certain religions." In particular, it avers that "Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with … terrorism" and proceeds to "reaffirm the obligation of all States to enact the necessary legislation to prohibit the advocacy of … incitement to discrimination" which would include, for example, suggesting the "profiling of Muslim minorities in the aftermath of the tragic events of 11 September 2001." While non-binding, the resolution is just the latest in an ongoing effort by the Organization of the Islamic Conference to criminalize criticism of Islam globally and, if adopted, would lay the groundwork for a binding version proposed by Pakistan as a treaty amendment earlier this year.
As the joint statement notes, "[u]nlike traditional defamation laws, which punish false statements of fact that harm individual persons, measures prohibiting the 'defamation of religions' punish the peaceful criticism of ideas."
Legal Project Director Daniel Huff called the resolution a "brazen attempt to curb criticism of radical Islam, cynically disguised as a pious affirmation of fundamental freedoms. In tenor and purpose it runs contrary to the bedrock principle of American First Amendment jurisprudence that 'debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.'"
The Legal Project of the Middle East Forum is dedicated to protecting authors and researchers from predatory lawsuits designed to stifle dissemination of information related to terrorism and its sources of funding. It assists targets of such suits with litigation costs, arranges for pro bono counsel, works with policy makers to publicize and address this growing threat.
For further information contact: Daniel Huff at firstname.lastname@example.org