The Bush administration, European governments and advocates of freedom of speech are ramping up efforts to counter what they see as a campaign by Muslim countries to suppress speech about religion, especially Islam.
The debate focuses on a United Nations resolution called "Combating Defamation of Religion," sponsored by the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference. The resolution was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 2005 and is up for renewal in the next couple of months. While the resolution stresses the need to fight defamation against all faiths, Islam is the only one explicitly mentioned.
Both the European Union and the United States, which have treaded carefully in recent years to avoid being perceived as anti-Muslim, have come out strongly against this resolution as well as similar efforts in other U.N. bodies.
Although such resolutions are not binding, there is mounting concern in Western countries that Muslim regimes are using a series of high-profile incidents, most notably the outrage provoked by the newspaper publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in Denmark, to stifle free speech and divert attention from their own repression of religious freedom at home.