Is the Istanbul Declaration Really Pushback against Blasphemy Laws or More Taqiyya?
An alleged breakthrough occurred in Istanbul, today, when a declaration was signed implementing UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Resolution 1618 passed in March, 2011 combating religious intolerance at a tripartite meeting involving Foreign Ministers from the EU, Members of the Arab League , Representatives of the Vatican, US Secretary Clinton and the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Conspicuous by its absence were representatives of the State of Israel, a member of the UNHRC.
According to the Washington-based Human Rights First group this would amount to a victory in pushback against OIC efforts endeavoring to impose criminalization of “blasphemy” under Islamic doctrine. The HRF noted:
Among other subjects, they will discuss how to implement an unprecedented consensus resolution on combating religious intolerance adopted at the U.N. Human Rights Council in March 2011[i]. Human Rights First welcomed that adoption of the resolution as an important shift away from efforts at the U.N. to prohibit “defamation of religions” – in essence an international blasphemy code. The OIC had for the past decade supported such efforts, which have had serious consequences for fundamental rights to freedom of expression and belief.
“We welcome this initiative of Secretary Clinton and top officials from OIC States to build upon the human rights-based approach agreed to in March to fight the rise of religious intolerance in the world. We expect that the OIC and the U.S. will reiterate their political commitment to this resolution at the highest level in order to advance positive action on these issues at the U.N.’s General Assembly in the fall,” said Human Rights First’s Tad Stahnke.
The consensus text agreed by the U.N. Human Rights Council was an important achievement. For the first time in many years, OIC governments agreed to focus on the protection of individuals rather than religions.
“Much needs to be done at the national level in U.N. member states to combat violence and discrimination on the basis of religion or belief. In particular, Human Rights First calls on all States to move toward implementing policies to combat hatred without restricting speech,” concluded Stahnke.
Human Rights First has identified scores of cases that provide ample warning of the misuse of blasphemy laws at the national level. The organization’s study, Blasphemy Laws Exposed, documents over 70 such cases in 15 countries where the enforcement of blasphemy laws have resulted in death sentences and long prison terms as well as arbitrary detentions, and have sparked assaults, murders and mob attacks.
A State Department press release noted the Ministerial gathering and the declaration reached today in Istanbul:
The Secretary of State of the United States, the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, together with foreign ministers and officials from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Senegal, Sudan, United Kingdom, the Vatican (Holy See), UN OHCHR, Arab League, African Union, met on July 15 in Istanbul to give a united impetus to the implementation of UN Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18 on “Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence, and violence against persons based on religion or belief.” The meeting was hosted by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation at the OIC/IRCICA premises in the historic Yildiz Palace in Istanbul and co-chaired by the OIC Secretary-General H.E Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu and U.S. Secretary of State H.E. Mrs. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
They called upon all relevant stakeholders throughout the world to take seriously the call for action set forth in Resolution 16/18, which contributes to strengthening the foundations of tolerance and respect for religious diversity as well as enhancing the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms around the world.
Participants, resolved to go beyond mere rhetoric, and to reaffirm their commitment to freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression by urging States to take effective measures, as set forth in Resolution 16/18, consistent with their obligations under international human rights law, to address and combat intolerance, discrimination, and violence based on religion or belief. The co-chairs of the meeting committed to working together with other interested countries and actors on follow up and implementation of Resolution 16/18 and to conduct further events and activities to discuss and assess implementation of the resolution. Participants are encouraged to consider to provide updates, as part of ongoing reporting to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, on steps taken at the national level on the implementation of Resolution 16/18, building also on related measures in the other resolutions adopted by consensus on freedom of religion or belief and on the elimination of religious intolerance and discrimination.
Secretary Clinton noted in her remarks at the Istanbul Higher Level Meetings with the OIC:
I want to applaud the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the European Union for helping pass Resolution 1618 at the Human Rights Council. I was complimenting the secretary general on the OIC team in Geneva. I had a great team there as well. So many of you were part of that effort. And together we have begun to overcome the false divide that pits religious sensitivities against freedom of expression, and we are pursuing a new approach based on concrete steps to fight intolerance wherever it occurs. Under this resolution, the international community is taking a strong stand for freedom of expression and worship, and against discrimination and violence based upon religion or belief.
These are fundamental freedoms that belong to all people in all places, and they are certainly essential to democracy. But as the secretary general just outlined, we now need to move to implementation. The resolution calls upon states to protect freedom of religion, to counter offensive expression through education, interfaith dialogue, and public debate, and to prohibit discrimination, profiling, and hate crimes, but not to criminalize speech unless there is an incitement to imminent violence. We will be looking to all countries to hold themselves accountable and to join us in reporting to the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights on their progress in taking these steps.
In Europe, we are seeing communities coming together to address both the old scourge of anti-Semitism and the new strains of anti-Muslim bias that continue to undermine the continent’s democratic ideals. Across the Middle East and Asia, we look to both people and leaders to resist the incitement of extremists who seek to inflame sectarian tensions, and reject the persecution of religious minorities such as the Copts or Ahmadis or Baha’is.
All very well and good, but the UNHRC has been a veritable snake pit filled with vipers from hate-filled anti-Semitic Muslim member countries of the OIC seeking to impose Islamic blasphemy laws on Western Democratic countries, used to intimidate and subjugate religious minorities in predominately Muslim lands. We hope that the HRF which has criticized the UNHRC on this issue is correct. However, we remain skeptical that this Declaration reached in Istanbul is anything but a taqiyya tactic to mollify infidels and continue to manipulate our human and civil rights laws against us under Stealth Jihad. This is what the Islam Exposed blog said when the UNHRC resolution was up for a vote in March:
The resolution represents a change of tactics, not strategic objectives. It is designed to deceive human rights activists, and it appears to be a success.