As if the endless tales of corruption, ineptitude, and financial waste were not enough to sully one's view of the United Nations, here is another reason to look askance at Turtle Bay: the organization is pushing a global blasphemy law designed to thwart criticism of the Islamic faith:
United Nations General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann said on Tuesday [November 11] that the world body should ban defamation of all religions and disagreed that such a move would impinge upon freedom of speech.
"Yes, I believe that defamation of religion should be banned," he said in response to a question at a press conference to highlight the interfaith conference at the UN headquarters. No one should try to defame Islam or any other religion, he said, adding: "We should respect all religions."
President d'Escoto, a former Sandinista foreign minister and recipient of the International Lenin Peace Prize, was speaking prior to the UN's Culture of Peace Conference, held on November 12 and 13 at the behest of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah. As the Middle East director of Human Rights Watch noted, "There is no religious freedom in Saudi Arabia, yet the kingdom asks the world to listen to its message of religious tolerance."
The meeting intended to build on a Saudi-led forum in Madrid earlier this year that issued a declaration touting "respect for religions." That sounds pleasant enough. Yet there is a thinly veiled agenda at work here: "a global law to punish blasphemy — a campaign championed by the 56-member Organization of Islamic Conference that puts the rights of religions ahead of individual liberties." Indeed, the details of last week's UN get-together are maddening:
Consider one key draft resolution at the event. Introduced jointly by the Philippines and Pakistan, it openly seeks to limit press freedoms. Sure, as read by Philippine President Gloria Arroyo, the language pays lip service to the notion of freedom of expression.
But the document then goes on to emphasize the "special duties and responsibilities necessary for the respect of the rights or reputations of others, protection of national security or of public order, or of public health and morals."
Translation: Don't even think of publishing those Danish cartoons or anything even close to them. And forget about questioning authorities in places like, say, Riyadh.
Of course, this is just the latest attempt to silence critics of radical Islam. Proposed blasphemy laws will fail to win much support from Americans or Europeans, but they underscore the agenda that Islamists are already enacting through politically correct appeals and soft intimidation.
Culture of peace? This is the culture of censorship and the West should have none of it.