IRLA Fights Against Global Blasphemy Law at the UN in Geneva

Human Rights Council Ad Hoc Committee considers global ban on speech that offends religious sensibilities

The IRLA’s “Statement of Concern about Proposals Regarding Defamation of Religions” was distributed today at the meeting of the UN Human Rights Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards taking place in Geneva. The Ad Hoc Committee has wide, if somewhat ambiguous, authority to “prepare complementary international standards to strengthen and update international instruments against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in all their aspects.” Among the items it is considering, are provisions designed to create a global ban on speech that offends religious sensibilities.

“The push by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to create a global ban on free speech on matters of religion is dangerous,” states James Standish, Deputy Secretary-General of the IRLA who is in Geneva this week representing the IRLA position. “We have seen the devastating impact of national equivalents of the provision, particularly in Pakistan where blasphemy laws are used to settle personal vendettas and relied upon as a pretext to marginalize the Christian community. Exporting this failed national model to the rest of the world would be very problematic. The IRLA is dedicated to prevent this.”

Blasphemy laws have a long history of abuse in a variety of cultures. Citizens have suffered injustice under these laws, prophets have been persecuted for violating them, and Jesus Christ – the Messiah to Christians, a prophet to Muslims – was executed in retaliation for making statements that offended the sensibilities of religious leaders of His day.

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