Islam at the Human Rights Council
by David G. Littman (Published May 2010)
European Parliament Brussels
28 January 2010 (13h00 – 18:00)
European Coalition for Israel
Israel, EU and the intercultural dialogue:
How will the demographic and cultural changes
in Europe change relations with Israel?
* * * * *
Member of the European Parliament Sari Essayah
Founding Director and European Director of Coalition for Israel
* * * * *
David G. Littman
Dennis Wrigley / Dr. Perrine Dufoix / Prof. Emile Vanbeckevoort
H.E. Ron Curiel, Israeli Ambassador to European Institutions in Brussels /
MEP Bastiaan Creis, Chairman of European Parliament Delegation for Relations with Israel
David G. Littman
How can the EU promote “Universal Values”
in the world community at large?
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is a great honour and a pleasure, for me to be here today and I wish to thank the European Coalition for Israel for their timely initiative to hold this Conference at the European Parliament. My available text contains smaller bracketed passages, as documentation that I shall not be able to pronounce in the time available.
As a veteran NGO human rights defender at the United Nations in Geneva since 1986, I have watched what is grandly called ‘the international community’ at the Palais:
descending incontinently, recklessly, the staircase which leads to a dark gulf. It is a fine broad staircase at the beginning, but, after a bit, the carpet ends. A little further on there are only flagstones, and, a little further on still, these break beneath your feet.
This ringing description by Churchill of Britain’s situation at a crucial moment in the spring of 1938 [24 March 1938, H of C,], during the period of fairyland Appeasement, gives a vivid image of the general climate nowadays at the UN Human Rights Council.
The problem is that everyone knows, but no one wants to recognise, the fact that the UN Emperor, strutting in his palace (“L’Etat c’est moi”/“Les droits de l’Homme, c’est nous”), is stark naked. Let me provide a recent example that I experienced just three months ago on 27 October  at the 2nd session of the Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards [to the International Bill of Human Rights]. Sweden’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the European Union, referred to the 1995 Barcelona Agreement and the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation – an intercultural Alliance of Civilizations “on both sides of the Mediterranean” 1 as she described it – while stressing: “our cherished religious, philosophical and humanist values”; “the importance of freedom of expression and religion”; “gender equality and women’s rights”; and “unrestricted freedom for all to change a religion.” She then concluded by reiterating the position of the EU and Western countries, and adding clearly that there should be “no complementary standards” to the universal human rights as expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Bill of Human Rights.
Soon after, Saudi Arabia’s representative declared that: “we are here to learn intercultural dialogue.” He was at pains to assure all & sundry: “We must live together, enjoying peace”; “Islam is a tolerant religion which rejects hate”; “Muslims respect other religions and wish to dialogue with them.” Similar flowery phrases were used by other Member States of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), such as Pakistan, Iran and Sudan….
On hearing these glowing OIC declarations, I decided to test the reality of a future “Alliance of Civilizations” by asking a simple question [on behalf of the 2 NGOs I represent at the UN: the Association for World Education and the World Union for Progressive Judaism]: Could those UN State Members which had signed and ratified the International Bill of Human Rights, confirm that it would be possible for a citizen of their country to change his or her religion and adopt another faith or belief, or non-belief; and, especially, does their local legislation permit or punish such an action that is fully guaranteed under international law, and widely proclaimed – or is it forbidden for persons of any specific religion or faith to do so? I then concluded:
“This is a crucial question that needs a clear reply otherwise we are turning back the clock.”
There was no public response to our query from members of the OIC or the NAM (Non-Aligned Movement states) – nor from the EU and other Western representatives, who preferred not to rock the diplomatic boat by acknowledging facts.
The Islamic Republic of Iran (1979) and the Universal Declaration
It is worth chronicling the Islamic ‘game of nations’ that began 30 years ago with systematic efforts at the UN by OIC countries – to replace the dominant paradigms of international relations – especially after Iran multiplied objections to the universal character and the indivisibility of human rights enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, referring to it as a Western secular concept of Judeo-Christian origin, incompatible with the sacred Islamic shari'a. Examples are numerous and some are to be found in our text.
[In 1981, two years after the Iranian revolution, this precise position was clearly stated at a 36th UN General Assembly session when the Iranian delegate affirmed that the Universal Declaration could not be implemented by Muslims: – If a choice had to be made between its stipulations and "the divine law of the country," Iran would always choose Islamic law. In 1982, Iran demanded a modification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – “through sincere dialogue and honest scholarly endeavour.” (A/C.3/37/SR.56, §53-55)]
[Again, in December 1984, at the UN General Assembly [3rd Committee], Iran’s delegate put on record his country's position, which I have quoted in several articles over 20 years and at the UN, as it speaks volumes:
[Certain concepts contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights needed to be revised. [Iran] recognized no authority or power but that of Almighty God and no legal tradition apart from Islamic law. As his delegation had already stated (…) conventions, declarations and resolutions, or decisions of international organizations which were contrary to Islam had no validity in the Islamic Republic of Iran. (...) The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which represented a secular understanding of the Judeo-Christian tradition, could not be implemented by Muslims and did not accord with the system of values recognized by the Islamic Republic of Iran; his country would therefore not hesitate to violate its provisions, since it had to choose between violating the divine law of the country and violating secular conventions. (A/C.3/39/SR.65, § 91-95)]
Also in 1981, a ‘Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights’ (UIDHR) was presented with much fanfare at UNESCO in Paris, attended by Ahmad Ben Bella of Algeria, Mukhtar Ould Daddah of Mauretania, Saudi Arabia's Prince Muhammad al- Faisal & Pakistan president Zia al-Haq's advisor. An expert scholar analysed it thus:
In a casual reading, the English version of the UIDHR seems to be closely modeled after the UDHR, but upon closer examination many of the similarities turn out to be misleading. In addition, the English version diverges from the Arabic version at many points. 2
Ayatollah Khomeini's Rushdie hukm / fatwa 3of 14 February 1989
The 1948 UDHR affirms in its articles 18 and 19 that: “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” and “the right to freedom of opinion and expression.” On St. Valentine Day, 14 February 1989, this was questioned by the Ayatollah Khomeini and the Rushdie syndrome began its grim toll. It is worthwhile recalling the words in Khomeini’s Jihad-Martyrdom death sentence (available here):
[I inform all zealous Muslims of the world that the author of the book entitled The Satanic Verses – which has been compiled, printed, and published in opposition to Islam, the Prophet, and the Qur'an – and all those involved in its publication who were aware of its content, are sentenced to death. I call on all zealous Muslims to execute them quickly, wherever they may be found, so that no one else will dare to insult the Muslim sanctities. God willing, whoever is killed on this path is a martyr (…) May peace and the mercy of God and His blessings be with you.4]
I spoke on three occasions at that 45th Commission session – the only NGO to do so [(17 Feb., 2 and 7 March) – quoting Egyptian Noble Prize Laureate Naguib Mahfouz, who said on 16 February:
The idea of killing someone because of what he wrote is rejected in principle. I consider it intellectual terrorism. The book, whatever its subject is, and whatever its faults are, has to be discussed so the faults can be discussed in a democratic way.” (International Herald Tribune, 16 Feb. 1989)]
And I warned then that:
Silence, here and now, would make of us all the accomplices of terrorism and tyranny. This Commission has a duty to act, however ineffective such a resolution may seem to be now.
[Aside from a cable by the UN Special Rapporteur on Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Amos Wako – after we spoke – reminding the Iranian government that arbitrary killings are forbidden and the law must strictly control and limit the circumstances in which a person may be deprived of life (“the right to life is a right from which all other rights flow.”], Nothing happened and, for 5 years, even Rushdie’s name was avoided in UN Resolutions criticizing Iran.5
The ‘Rushdie Affair’ began as a somewhat exotic matter, which many – especially in the United Nations – tried to ignore. But the infection festered, eating away at the international norms, attacking the heart of the International Bill of Human Rights, particularly the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
[Waves of Islamist-inspired assassinations struck Muslim countries, killing and maiming writers such as Naguib Mahfouz, and journalists, artists, intellectuals – anyone considered a "heretic" or an "apostate" and therefore a legitimate target for arbitrary execution. In 1991, the Japanese translator of Rushdie’s book was executed and both the Italian and Norwegian translators seriously wounded.]
Rushdie and the 1990 Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam
It is worthwhile following the trail of this Frankenstein ‘stealth jihad’ trek from the start – of what was to become the greatest freedom-of-opinion and expression issue of the 20th century. Exactly a month after the St. Valentine's Day lethal hukm-fatwa, the Iranian Government obtained a declaration adopted at the 18th meeting of foreign ministers of the OIC countries held in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) on 13-16 March 1989, which "proclaimed, in unambiguous terms, the apostasy of Salman Rushdie."
[Indeed, the 44 foreign ministers present at that meeting promulgated a ban on The Satanic Verses, but did not comment on the hukm that sentenced its author, translators and publishers to death. However, they did pronounce Salman Rushdie to be an apostate. As the traditional interpretation of shari'a law requires that the punishment (hadd) for an apostate (ridda) should be death – one of the three cases where a Muslim's blood may be legally shed – it was the OIC that should have declared it contrary to the International Bill of Human Rights. The OIC is the appropriate body to make such a condemnation since one of its Members, the Islamic Republic of Iran, had constantly stressed – and has never denied – that the Khomeini hukm is binding on all Muslims.]
Barely nine months after this meeting of OIC foreign ministers in Riyadh a committee of Legal Experts held a meeting in Teheran [26-28 December 1989] where they prepared the draft of the future Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (CDHRI), which was then adopted in Cairo on 5 August 1990 by the 19th Islamic Conference of foreign ministers. The CDHRI established shari'a law as "the only source of reference" for the protection of human rights in Islamic countries, thus giving it total supremacy over the UDHR.
On 30 October, the fundamentalist Iranian position was expressed in a reply by Iranians Ambassador Sirous Nasseri to the Human Rights Committee (the UN Treaty Body that supervises the 1966 ICCPR.) 6
[It could, of course, be argued that each State party to the Covenant should simply apply its provisions to the letter. Yet many peoples were not satisfied with the rigid application of human rights instruments and wanted account taken of their traditions, culture and religious context in order to evaluate the human rights situation in a country. (…) A revival of Islam, which some call fanaticism or extremism and others renaissance, was obviously taking place.[...] It should be borne in mind that certain Islamic countries – and by no means the least important – had not subscribed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. An even larger number had not yet acceded to the Covenant. The Islamic countries had therefore elaborated an Islamic Declaration of Human Rights (the 1990 Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam). (…) Members of the Committee had asked whether the Islamic Republic of Iran had specific reservations to make concerning the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Covenant; an examination of the Islamic Declaration of Human Rights revealed what, in the view of the Islamic countries, was lacking in those two instruments. [Iran] had reached the conclusion that those two instruments were compatible with Islamic law. [...] Discrepancies [...] between domestic legislation and the Covenant should not be exaggerated. [...] Those differences could be overcome and a better understanding of Islam, of Islamic law and of international law achieved only by means of dialogue approached with an open mind.] 7
CDHRI published in UN ‘Compilation of International Instruments’ (1997)
As a classic example of dhimmitude, the 1990 “Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam”, based on shari’a law was published by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Volume II of A Compilation of International Instruments (1997). No satisfactory written explanation has ever been provided for this intriguing aberration.
In 1996 the OIC reached a decision – again at a Teheran summit meeting – which Pakistan Ambassador Munir Akram announced at the Commission in 1999 (for the OIC), calling for:
Pragmatic and constructive steps to counter the negative propaganda against Islam; to remove and rectify misunderstandings; and to present the true image of Islam: a religion of peace and tolerance.
Such affirmations became the norm at the Commission of Human Rights – and since 2006 at the Human Rights Council which replaced it with “good intentions” – along a hidden path. Need I remind you all of that adage: “The Road to hell is paved with good intentions”?
A 1997 ‘Blasphemy’ Accusation at the Commission on Human Rights
On 18 April 1997 the OIC imposed its viewpoint [at the Commission’s final day, after six weeks, when the Indonesian Ambassador – speaking for the OIC countries and most probably on the initiative of the ambassador of Iran–] by criticizing a passage in the Report on Racism by the Special Rapporteur, Maurice Glélé-Ahanhanzo of Benin, a Christian, who quoted a passage referring to the use of the Qur’an as an anti-Jewish source by Muslim extremists. This was considered ‘blasphemy’ – a "defamation of our religion Islam and blasphemy against its Holy Book Qur'an."8
[Their indignation was caused by an alleged “offensive reference” contained in a passage from a highly-respected Tel Aviv University annual publication on Anti-Semitism Worldwide which he reproduced in his report on racism, entitled, Islamist and Arab Anti-Semitism. Yet it was an exact description, both then and now, of the situation:
The use of Christian and secular European anti-Semitism motifs in Muslim publications is on the rise, yet at the same time Muslim extremists are turning increasingly to their own religious sources, first and foremost the Qur’an, as a primary anti-Jewish source.]
That evening, because the debate on this “blasphemy” would have continued non-stop till midnight, the 53 member States adopted an agreed Chairman’s decision 1997/125 [E/CN.4/1997//SR.70] by which the Commission:
1. Decided without a vote to express its indignation and protest at the content of such an offensive reference to Islam and the Holy Qur'an;
2. Affirmed that this offensive reference should have been excluded from the report;
3. Requested the Chairman to ask the Special Rapporteur to take corrective action in response to the present decision.
[Interestingly, no one attempted to refute the alleged "offensive reference", merely heaping allegations and scorn sufficed to ensure that it was never repeated. Perhaps a reluctance to address the facts resulted from the massive and irrefutable evidence over decades that many Islamic clerics do use religious sources – including traditional Qur’anic interpretations – for derogatory and hateful references against Jews and infidels, while encouraging Jihadist terrorist activities aimed at all and sundry – and they continue to do so, non-stop, today.]
Tightening the net of Dhimmitude
The 1997 accusation of "blasphemy" was an attempt to oblige Special Rapporteurs to apply self-censorship and indeed it succeeded. For seven consecutive years the chastised Special Rapporteur on Racism, who had received no backing whatsoever – even from Israel’s ambassador who had encouraged the deletion of the “blasphemous” passage for fear of offending Islam – omitted any reference in his annual reports to rampant antisemitism in most Arab countries, in Iran, and elsewhere in the Muslim world. His successor, Doudou Diène, concentrated a great part of his Reports on what he referred to as “Islamophobia.”
In autumn 1997 – six months after the “Blasphemy Affair”, the newly elected Iranian President Mohammed Khatami called for a global “Dialogue of Civilizations.” In early 1998, Iran appealed for a “revision of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” Later, the same year High Commissioner Office for Human Rights hosted – jointly with the OIC –a seminar in Geneva: “Enriching the Universality of Human Rights: Islamic Perspectives on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” No questions were allowed from the audience.
“Defamation of Islam” (1999) at the Commission on Human Rights
A few months later Pakistan Ambassador Munir Akram, speaking for the OIC, reaffirmed:
Islam, one of the principal religions of the world, is being slandered in different quarters, including in human rights forums.
He introduced a resolution, entitled “Defamation of Islam”, which he justified by comparing "the emergence of a new manifestation of intolerance and misunderstanding and misconceptions of Islam and Muslim peoples in various parts of the world" – with what he referred to as: "antisemitism in the years of the past."
He built his case on the 1997 Blasphemy Affair at the Commission on Human Rights and a much-repeated affirmation by him and his OIC colleagues:
[It has already been claimed that Islamic scriptures incite Muslims to violence. This assertion was even included in a human rights report and excised only after the Commission acted on this blasphemy. (…)]
It was Islam which gave the world the first Charter of Human Rights in the Holy Qur'an; the Declaration of Human Rights in Prophet Muhammad's last address; and the first Refugee Convention in the Constitution of Medina.
Although the Commission’s resolution [1999/82] was renamed “Defamation of Religions” – for diplomatic convenience – no one was misled as only Islam was named. The resolution was later called “Combating the Defamation of Religions” – with only Islam named.
2001: Year of “Dialogue Among Civilizations”– initiated by President Khatami
Already in 1998, on Iran’s initiative and with OIC backing, the year 2001 was officially designated by the General Assembly: “UN Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations” – even while the Khomeini hukm-fatwa against Salman Rushdie remained operative. Then came the barbaric 9/11 Jihadist attack.
In March 2002 the OIC organised yet another “Symposium of Human Rights in Islam” at the Palais des Nations, just prior to the 58th session of the Commission. High Commissioner Mary Robinson addressed the Symposium. Under the title of “A greater need for an understanding of Islam”, she read from her text a eulogistic declaration on Islam (much appreciated by all the OIC members states) that was later placed on the back table alongside the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam – with no sign of the Universal Declaration which is usually made available on such occasions in the six official languages:
["No one can deny that at its core Islam is entirely consonant with the principles of fundamental human rights, including human dignity, tolerance, solidarity and quality. Numerous passages from the Qur’an and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad will testify to this. No one can deny, from a historic perspective, the revolutionary force that is Islam, which bestowed rights upon women and children long before similar recognition was afforded in other civilisations. Custom and tradition have tended to limit these rights, but as more Islamic States ratify the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, ways forward for women are being found and women are leading the debate. And no one can deny the acceptance of the universality of human rights by Islamic States."]
[Whether Mary Robinson believed all what she said, or simply read it from a text prepared by her Palestinian woman advisor is anyone’s guess, but at the back of the room could be found similar written statements by the participants, next to piles of copies of the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam.]
[There is reference to “rights of women” in article 6 (a) of the CDHR, which states that "Woman is equal to man in human dignity, and has rights to enjoy as well as duties to perform..." However, these "rights to enjoy" are all "subject to the Islamic Shariah" (article 24), and article 25 is very clear: "The Islamic Shariah is the only source of reference for the explanation or clarification of any articles of this Declaration." Thus, the "rights" and "duties" of women are clearly prescribed by the shari’a, in which there is no “equality” between Muslim men and women, nor between Muslims and non-Muslims – quite the contrary, women and non-Muslims are considered inferiors.]
[Two years earlier – just prior to the Iran’s “Dialogue initiative” – a bill by moderates in the Iranian Parliament, endeavouring to raise the marriage age for young girls from 9 to 15 years was overruled by the mullahs. They claimed it would be against Islamic teachings to change the law as “Islamic scholars had put a lot of efforts into these laws.” Muhammad had consummated his marriage with Aisha at the age of nine (she became his ‘wife’ at seven, bringing her toys with her), thus making it sacrosanct for the mullahs.]
[Attempted censorship at the Sub-Commission on Human Rights (2005)]
[On 8 August 2005, Pakistan Ambassador Massoud Khan delivered a statement to the UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights on behalf of the OIC, in which he expressed serious concern at “the rise in Islamophobia in recent months” and “the tide of defamation of Islam” – even declaring that “the prefix of ‘Islamic’ before terrorism is a sacrilege.” His political text is revealing in many respects, not least for its veiled attack against three NGOs (AWE, IHEU, AWC) for whom I had delivered a joint oral statement on 26 July 2005 on a taboo subject entitled, “the radical Ideology of Jihad” – again quoting from the Hamas Charter’s article 8. There were four indignant interruptions on ‘points of order’, and Pakistan’s ambassador even referred to “some NGO representatives [who] are packaging their crass propaganda as scholarly research in their bid to spread hatred against Muslims.” Our text shows each ‘point of order’ verbatim for an idea of UN taboo subjects. On 18 April 2005, AWE/IHEU/AWC held a joint Conference at the Commission on “Victims of Jihad: Muslims, Dhimmis, Apostates and Women” (Bat Ye’or, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Johannes Jansen, Ibn Warraq, Simon Deng, Caroline Fourest, Azam Kamguian, Hamouda Bella, David G. Littman]
The status of Islam at the UN: ‘Danish Affair’ and an Islamic Charter
The new rules of conduct imposed by the OIC and accepted for political or ‘diplomatic’ reasons, gave the “representatives of Islam” an exceptional status at the Council.
[Discussion on political issues within Islamic States soon became prohibited at the United Nations, contradicting "the right to freedom of opinion and expression" enshrined in article 19 of the UDHR – and slowly this landmark pillar of our society was eroded in international organizations and even in Western society.]
[In a press release in February 2006 by the OIC Secretariat’s Observatory on Islamophobia, we read about the consistent pattern and continuity of sacrilege and blasphemy being committed in the name of freedom of speech by some publications in Europe.” (Jeddah, 4 February 2006).]
On 18 January 2006, the OIC’s Secretary-General, Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu
denounced and strongly disapproved the recurrence of the publication of blasphemous and insulting caricatures of Prophet Mohammed…
[He considered that these:
misguided Islamophobic acts, by deeply hurting the feelings of one fifth of the humanity, go beyond the freedom of expression or press and they violate international principles, values and ethics enshrined in the various resolutions and declarations of the United Nations. Unfortunately acts of sacrilege of the holy Islamic symbols harm and contradict various efforts and initiatives aiming at contributing to the entrenchment of an atmosphere of dialogue among civilizations, cultures and religions, including the UN adopted OIC initiative ‘Dialogue among Civilizations.’]
One passage from his text speaks volumes:
It is the common sense that Islamophobic acts, which are also against the internationally promoted common values, cannot and should not be condoned in the pretext of freedom of expression or press. The principle of freedom of expression cannot be promoted by offensively hurting and trampling on the sincere religious beliefs of millions of people.
The Final Communiqué of the OIC’s Third Extraordinary Session of the Islamic Summit, held in Mecca from 7-8 December 2005 – only covered by the media in regard to the Iranian President’s threats to Israel – provide a clear message for the United Nations system, especially its 1945 Charter (Ch. I, 2:4).
The Conference called for considering the possibility of establishing an independent permanent body to promote human rights in Member States as well as the possibility in preparing an Islamic Charter on Human Rights in accordance with the provisions of the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam and interact with the United Nations and other relevant international bodies.
This Islamic Charter has since been confirmed at the OIC meeting in Dakar in 2008.
The ‘Danish Cartoon Affair’ revealed just how powerful Islamism and stealth dhimmitude have become, and it is constantly spreading at the United Nations and beyond. Surely, the barbaric slaughter of Theo Van Gogh, the blood of a man beheaded on TV & the murderous Muslim mobs & Jihadist bombers worldwide stain Islam more than caricatures ever could? 9
[A century after the ‘Dreyfus Affair’ – a turning point in the history of France when the Church was separated from the State – we may wonder how many Emile Zolas will write “J’accuse” letters to oppose those who would libel liberty and the freedom of opinion and expression & of the press.]
2nd decade of human rights education (2004-14), the teaching of hate is unacceptable
The international community should heed the Iranian president’s words, especially his politicidal reference in October 2005 – and reiterated since then – not just to wipe Israel off the map, but to “the struggle between the Islamic world and the front of the infidels.” This is the key to the Jihadist ideology: a clash between a tolerant society – “Western” or otherwise – where freedom of speech is enshrined and those forces that wish to destroy the “Other”, whether in the East, West, North or South.
[The current second UN decade for human rights education is the time for UN bodies to speak out firmly in regard to human rights educational attitudes in general, and toward peace and the “other”; and also to condemn any teaching of “Jihad and Martyrdom,” especially as it relates to the beheading of non-Muslim “infidels” or “apostates.” We have stated on many occasions at the UN that “those committing such barbaric acts in the name of Islam gravely blemish its reputation in the eyes of the world” and have called on UN bodies to act on this grave matter, constantly citing the writings and voices of many of those courageous moderate Muslims to no avail.]
It is time to examine systematically the school textbooks used by all states members of the United Nations, and especially all Member States of the Council of Human Rights – as we stated last October again at the Council’s Ad Hoc Committee session. So long as UNESCO, other human rights bodies & the EU do not address this blatant misuse of school textbooks in Arab and other Muslim countries in the Middle East that teach their youth a “culture of hate”, backed by an ideology of “Jihad and Martyrdom in the path of Allah” – via the media too – there will be no hope of attaining peace and reconciliation anywhere in the world among peoples and religions.
Doudou Diène: UN Special Rapporteur on Racism & Islamophobia
Two years ago, at the 6th session of the Council the UN Special Rapporteur on racism, Doudou Diène presented his report on ‘defamation of religions’. Nowhere did he even mention the term “Jihad” or “Jihadist terrorism”. In his 21 page report, Mr. Diène refers briefly to antisemitism and “Chistianophobia” on 1 page and 1½ pages, but one-third of his report, over seven pages, deals with “Islamophobia” and the “defamation of religions” (mainly about Islam). Diène mentioned three recent developments that illustrate the gravity of “Islamophobia”, and especially the manifestation outside the European Union Parliament in Brussels on 11 September 2007 against the “Islamization of Europe” that took place despite the mayor’s refusal to provide an authorisation to allow it. However, He did not deal with the proclaimed Jihad war and racist slavery by the Islamist Arab Sudanese regime against the African Christian and traditionalists in Southern Sudan which went on for decades and then continued against the African Muslims of Dafur, even now. In 1999, the leader of the Southern Sudanese Christians, the late Dr. John Garang, came to speak at the Commission on Human Rights for Christian Solidarity International (CSI), whom I represented then – and was able to introduce him to the High Commissioner Mary Robinson at her reception at the Palais Wilson. But he was stopped on a point of order by Sudan and was unable to deliver his statement; CSI was later ejected from the UN on ‘procedural’ grounds, initiated by Sudan and the OIC later in the year.
[On 13 September 2007, Pakistan’s Ambassador Masood Khan, speaking on behalf of the OIC, reiterated that:
Denunciations of terrorisms and extremisms have been made by opinion leaders of the Muslim world. A matching response has not been forthcoming. (…) Equating certain religions with terrorism would have far reaching consequences for its followers. Even terrorist acts carried out by non state actors, in the name of religion, should be de-linked from religion to ensure freedom of religion or belief.
[Yet, it is a fact that neither he or any other member state of the OIC, nor Muslim clerics, have condemned the reiterated calls of non-state actors to kill in the name of Allah and of Islam – and all our efforts over the years to add one single phrase to this effect in the Commission and the Human Rights Council resolution on “Combating defamation of religions” – sponsored annually since 1999 by the OIC – have proved futile.]
Ambassador Munir Khan also declared in another statement that “the OIC has been cautioning that Muslims are being demonized and dehumanised as Jews were in the interwar period in the last century.” Such an absurd allegation totally ignores the fact that the demonization of Jews is inherent in sacred Islam texts which continue to be propagated today by Islamic leaders worldwide.
[He also referred to “recent acts of defamation in the shape of blasphemous sketches in Sweden and posters in Switzerland.” A grave case of Judeophobia in books published by ISESCO, the OIC’s cultural wing is available in our UN written statement and our complaint to UNESCO, which remains unanswered.]
On 20 September 2007, while delivering our third oral statement to the 6th session of the UN Council on Human Rights in Geneva, a representative of Egypt (one of the 47 Member States) raised a ‘point of order’ twice in an attempt to censor our joint statement His second intervention came after our quotation from the Hamas Charter’s Jihad slogan in article 8. Egypt objected that references to “religion” and to “Allah” were not relevant to item 8 and such declarations were “unwise”. After delivering a second strong criticism of President Ahmadinejad in another statement on 25 September, we then learned from the Secretary of the Council that while criticism of a Head of State by NGOs was now accepted, any mention of “Allah” should be avoided – and that was probably why the Egyptian delegate had made his second ‘point of order’. This was another step on the ongoing descent to dhimmitude.
[Paradoxically, many representatives of Muslim States – including Iran and Pakistan – always begin their statements with the first words of the Koran: “In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate. Praise be to Allah”. As is well-known by most Muslims and students of the Qur’an this first sura ends with a strong criticism against “those who have incurred Your wrath” and “those who have gone astray”, which implicitly refers in general to all “Jews” and to all “Christians”.]
[One example of the “Islamophobia” campaign by Muslim countries was pronounced on September 25 2007 by Ambassador Khan, speaking again for the OIC on ‘Defamation of Religions’. There was no official reaction by any State Members to this very grave calumny, but a strong letter of complaint signed by numerous NGOs was sent to the ambassador on September 28, the last day of the session. One paragraph of his statement is enough to show the depths of the duplicity being used constantly in human rights forums.
Accomodation of Muslims and their religious aspirations in the Western world will create space for political and social harmony. All is not dark. Enlightened communities and opinion leaders in Europe and North America are trying to steer their societies in that direction. It is, however, surprising that in many instances Holocaust survivors, instead of promoting such harmony, are campaigning against Muslim symbols in the Western world. They should be the most ardent advocates against discrimination. Islamophobia is also a crude form of Anti-Semitism.]
Among our UN oral and written statements that I have made available, there are two remarkable examples of what is happening at the Human Rights Council.
– One gives the verbatim exchanges during what is now known as the “Shari’a Affair” of 16 June 2008 when the Egyptian delegate tried to stop me speaking (for the AWE and IHEU) on violence against women in regard to shari’ah law; instead of a 3 minute statement, this farce lasted 1½ hours. A similar case occurred on 23 September 2008 when I mentioned the name of the Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi. These ludicrous ad hominem attacks on NGOs can be read in detail and also be seen on the UN webcast. Since then, words such as shari’a, fatwa, Allah, the Grand Sheikh Tantawi and others became taboo words that can no longer be pronounced.
– A full description of the contents of the ISESCO books found at the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Palais des Nations) which I discovered on display at that event in December 2008 is to be found in our ‘Public Complaint’ documentation of 12 January 2009. What is most disturbing is that ISESCO – the scholarly wing of the OIC countries – has an educational partnership with UNESCO since 1981, yet this changes nothing.
Regarding the title of this presentation: “How can the EU promote ‘Universal Values’ in the world community at large?” – I would recommend that we must oppose every attempt by Islamists or their representatives to introduce Islamic values into our society. Those values are totally alien to our Judeo-Christian-Humanist values on which our modern democratic societies have been built. We must oppose attempts to create parallel systems of justice. We must fight every step of the way all attempts to create shar’ia courts. All of us: whether, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Humanists, and especially Muslims – must reject Shar’ia law because, as the Islamic scholar Hassan Mahmud has clearly stated – and as we can see – “Muslims are the first victims of Islamic law.”
For you all to consult a comprehensive 13-page analysis of the latest situation on ‘freedom of religion and belief’; ‘freedom of opinion and expression; and ‘combating defamation of religion’ in the corridors of power at the United Nations and elsewhere, you will also find on the document table a useful 13-page policy paper prepared by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) with whom I have often collaborated in joint statements at the UN, via their main representative in Geneva, Roy W. Brown – one such case was the “Shari’a Affair” of 16 June 2008, mentioned earlier. It’s title: “Speaking Freely About Religion: Religious Freedom, Defamation and Blasphemy.”
To conclude, let us all remember that it is now 60 years since the horrors of the Second World War and the founding of the United Nations: a body often more ‘Divided’ regionally, politically & spiritually, than ‘United.’ The principal aim of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights was to create a framework for a world society, in need of universal codes based on mutual consent in order to function. We must always remain vigilant to prevent these international standards being contested by those who call into question – at the United Nations or elsewhere – the universality of these human rights principles. This creeping dhimmitude at the UN & elsewhere should be denounced for what it is: a return to the past.
In his analysis of Plato’s criticism of democracy, Sir Karl Popper refers to a ‘paradox of freedom’ and a ‘paradox of tolerance’. Here today, once again as in October 2007 – when I last spoke at the European Parliament in Brussels – his words shall be my conclusion:
Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed and tolerance with them …We should therefore claim in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade. 10
1. The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, formerly known as the “Barcelona Process” (November 1995), was re-launched as the “Union for the Mediterranean” (Paris Summit, July 2008). The “Partnership” now includes all 27 member states of the European Union, along with 16 partners across the southern Mediterranean and the Middle East. The partnership was organised into three main dimensions, which remain today as the broad working areas of the Union for the Mediterranean:
– Political and Security Dialogue, aimed at creating a common area of peace and stability, underpinned by sustainable development, rule of law, democracy and human rights.
– Economic and Financial Partnership, including the gradual establishment of a free-trade area aimed at promoting shared economic opportunity through sustainable and balanced socio-economic development.
– Social, Cultural & Human Partnership, aimed at promoting understanding and intercultural dialogue between cultures, religions and people, and facilitating exchanges between civil society and ordinary citizens, particularly women and young people.
2. Ann Elizabeth Mayer, Islam and Human Rights. Tradition and Politics, (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press/London: Pinter Publishers, 1991), p. 27.
3. It is important to distinguish between two types of religious rulings in Iran: a fatwa and a hukm – the former remains valid only during the lifetime of the religious authority who issues it; the latter continues in effect beyond his death. Despite the Western habit of referring to the edict against Rushdie as a fatwa, Iranian spokesmen have universally regarded it as a hukm. In an interview four years later, then Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani referred to the fatwa/hukm against Salman Rushdie and was very clear in his definition:
"This is prescribed by an Islamic law that has been in existence for a thousand years. Even if the Imam [Ayatollah Khomeini] had not pronounced a fatwa, it could have been traced in the books of great Islamic scholars. It is written that anyone cursing the Prophet is condemned to death." [Time International, 24 May 1993].
On 14 February 1993 Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, who had succeded Ayatollah Khomeini in June 1989 as Iran's Supreme Guide, confirmed that the death sentence must be carried out whatever the circumstances:
"Imam Khomeini has shot an arrow at this impudent apostate. The arrow is moving to its target and will sooner or later hit it. The verdict must undoubtedly be carried out and will be carried out .... Solving the Rushdie issue is possible only with the handing of this apostate and infidel person to Muslims." In November 1992 Iran’s chief justice Ayatollah Morteza Moqtadi also confirmed that the fatwa/hukm was irrevocable.
This was again confirmed by Ayatollah Javardi-Amoli (February 1997): "This is not a fatwa which died with the death of the religious leader who issued it...It is a hukm which is permanent and it will stay in place until it is carried out." –
4. Daniel Pipes, The Rushdie Affair: The Novel, The Ayatollah, and the West (New York, Birch Lane, 1990), p. 27; p. 30.
5. Association for World Education written statement (by David G. Littman) submitted to the 60th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights – E/CN.4/2004/NGO/252: The 'Rushdie Affair'/Rushdie syndrome: the right to life and the human rights mechanisms
6. The UN treaty body which supervises the 1966 ICCPR), regarding comments and questions by the Committee's independent members to Iran's second periodic report.
7. Official Records of the Human Rights Committee, 1992-93, CCPR/12 (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights), vol. 1, 46th session, 1196th meeting (New York and Geneva: UN (ICCPR), 1996, § 55-56
8. René Wadlow & David G. Littman, “Dangerous Censorship of a UN Special Rapporteur,” Justice (Tel Aviv): 14 (Sept. 1997) p. 10-17
Reprinted: Robert Spencer (Ed.) The Myth of Islamic Tolerance: How Islamic Law Treats Non-Muslims, NY: Prometheus, 2005, ch. 29.
9. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer prefers the "definition of the world's central problem… as 'the new totalitarianism' of 'destructive jihadist terrorism.' John Vinocur, 'Europe's old axis has lost its luster,' IHT, 19 February 2004, p. 8; Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996); and especially Bat Ye'or, Islam and Dhimmitude. Where Civilizations Collide (Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 2002).
10. David Miller, A Pocket Popper (UK: Fontana Pocket Readers, 1983), The Paradoxes of Sovereignty (1945), 322, n. 4, p. 446.
David G. Littman is a historian. He has published numerous articles on Jews and Christians (dhimmis) under Islam in the 1970s and 1980s, and co-edited with Yehossssshafat Harkabi (under the pseudonym, D.F. Green), Arab Theologians on Jews and Israel (1971-76, English, French, German). Since 1986 he has been a human rights defender for several NGOs at the United Nations in Geneva (since 1997 for the Association for World Education (AWE), and again, since 2000, for the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ). Nearly 100 of his earlier oral & written statements to the Commission and Sub-Commission on Human Rights were published in “Human Rights and Human Wrongs at the United Nation” (WUPJ, 1986-1991, N° 1 to N°11). He edited several of his articles on various comparative and current human rights themes, which were published – with some recent oral and NGO written UN statements – in “Human Rights and Human Wrongs at the United Nations,” Part 5 (pp. 305-472), edited by Robert Spencer, The Myth of Islamic Tolerance: How Islamic Law Treats Non-Muslims (New York: Prometheus Books, 2005, pp.593).
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