censorship

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There’s been an ongoing campaign by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to prevent “defamation” of Islam through the UN. This was most recently defeated at Durban II. However this fight to protect Islam from criticism carries on. In response to this, many secular groups have called on the UN tp reject the proposal, which would have far-reaching effects on freedom of speech. Reuters reports (U.N. urged to reject bar on defamation of religion) that

Some 200 secular, religious and media groups from around the world on Wednesday urged the United Nations Human Rights Council to reject a call from Islamic countries for a global fight against “defamation of religion.”

The groups, including some Muslim bodies, issued their appeal in a statement on the eve of a vote in the Council in Geneva on a resolution proposed by the 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

Such a resolution, the statement said, “may be used in certain countries to silence and intimidate human rights activists, religious dissenters and other independent voices,” and to restrict freedom of religion and of speech.

It’s important that this sort of resolution be firmly blocked.  The concept of “defamation of religion” is so under-defined that it will be used to enforce all sorts of restrictions on the rights of free speech, and enable continued use of outdated blasphemy laws in some of the more repessive religiously motivated states.

For those of us resident in the UK, there’s a Number 10 Petition which you can sign if you are concerned.  The petition proposer says:

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference, a voting block within the United Nations, is currently attempting to use its power within that organisation to seek to have a binding resolution made attempting to force governments to criminalise freedom of expression. In pursuing this course of action it seeks to promote the idea that religion can be defamed and that criticism of religion should be outlawed.

This is a gross violation of the most basic and fundamental of Human Rights, that of freedom of speech. It must be countered by all governments wherever possible and properly identified for what it is, a blatant attempt to stifle debate and criticism of religion. Religions do not have rights, people do. Whilst this is being introduced by Islamic countries it is not specific to the religion of Islam.

The original non-binding resolution can be found on the UN web site

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Hot on the heels of the recent furore over New Scientist’s “Darwin was Wrong” cover, which for a week or so set the blogosphere alight with accusations and counter-accusations, the magazine has bowed to what is presumably religious/creationist pressure and pulled an article in which book reviews editor Amanda Gefter outlined how she identifies publications with a creationist agenda.  Fortunately a copy of the web page has been kept.

The article identifies a series of tips to identifying texts with a creationist agenda – many such texts try to conceal this through weaselly words:

Gefter concludes by saying, “It is crucial to the public’s intellectual health to know when science really is science. Those with a religious agenda will continue to disguise their true views in their effort to win supporters, so please read between the lines.”

Too true, and it will be interesting to know quite who was upset by the article, and why.  Having looked at it, it’s not obvious what the problem is.

Hat tip – Examiner.com

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