We’ve been following some of the violence in Pakistan incited by wrong-headed interpretations of religion and piety. While this recently-adopted resolution by the United Nations Human Rights Council does not change Pakistan’s (or any other country’s) anti-blasphemy laws, it is a statement by the international body that the key principle here is individual conscience and freedom of belief.
While some on the lunatic left might cry “foul” because of the seeming cultural imperialism of such liberal Western ideas as individual conscience and religious freedom, this is a case where the best moral reasoning of our Western philosophical inheritance trumps any well-intentioned cultural sensitivity.
In our own nation, it remains helpful for us to stand for the beauty, richness, and rightness of religious plurality; and also for the right of believers (and non-believers) to live and practice in the light of discernment.
Here is Howard Friedman’s summary:
In a major policy shift, the 47-member United Nations Human Rights Council [on March 24th] unanimously adopted a Resolution on Freedom of Religion or Belief which omits any reference to the concept of “defamation of religion” and instead focuses on the individual’s right to freedom of belief. [The] U.S.-based Human Rights First campaign called the resolution “a huge achievement because…it focuses on the protection of individuals rather than religions.”
For many years, the Organization of the Islamic Conference had pressed to create a concept of “defamation of religion” that has been widely criticized in the United States and by a number of other Western countries. Muslim countries set aside that 12-year campaign and joined in approving [March 24th’s] resolution.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom issued a statement applauding the Human Rights Council’s action. USCIRF said in part that it welcomes the Council’s “significant step away from the pernicious ‘defamation of religions’ concept.” It explained: “The defamation concept undermines individual rights to freedom of religion and expression; exacerbates religious intolerance, discrimination, and violence; and provides international support for domestic blasphemy laws that often have led to gross human rights abuses.”