UN Treaty would be a significant blow to Religious Freedom and Individual Liberty

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The American Islamic Forum for Democracy unites with organizations around the world to protest its signing.

Phoenix, Ariz. (November 11, 2009) – The United Nations has continuously passed non-binding resolutions on “defamation of religions” since 1999. However, for the first time ever this year, a UN body proposed a binding treaty to combat the “defamation of religions.” Over 100 NGOS from over 20 countries have signed a Common Statement protesting the resolution . In a Geneva meeting that concluded on October 30th 1, Pakistan, on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and Nigeria, on behalf of the Africa Group, proposed a binding treaty amendment to the ICERD, an existing international treaty on racism.2

Meanwhile, in New York on October 29th, Syria, on behalf of the OIC, along with Belarus and Venezuela, proposed yet another General Assembly resolution “combating defamation of religions.” The resolution lends credibility to the proposal of a binding treaty and continues to provide international cover for domestic anti-blasphemy laws in countries like Pakistan and Sudan. A preliminary vote on the resolution is expected before Thanksgiving, and a final plenary vote is expected in early to mid-December.

In response, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy has joined over 100 other human rights organizations in a common civil society statement against the concept of “defamation of religions.” This coalition is indeed an odd group of bedfellows, both religiously diverse with Muslims, Christians, Baha’is, Jews, Hare Krishnas, Atheists, Humanists, and non-religious organizations, and also regionally diverse, hailing from over 20 countries around the world. The civil society statement is available below and at www.whatisdefamationofreligion.com.

“Human rights are meant to protect the individuals, not ideas or governments or even religions,” said Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, President and Founder of AIFD. “The moment governments begin to determine what is and what is not ‘defamation of religions’, we will have ushered in the end of free speech and the end of religious freedom.”

“It is the moral duty of all human rights defenders and advocates for genuine liberty around the globe to unite against this flawed concept before it becomes binding law.”


1 This meeting was convened by the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards, a

committee created by the Human Rights Council to identify gaps in international law for the protection

against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and other forms of intolerance.

2 ICERD is an acronym for the International Covenant on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial

Discrimination, which was adopted in 1965 and entered force in 1969.

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