U.S. supports UN’s suppression of speech that criticizes religion

January 4, 2012 • 8:49 am

This is a severe setback for America’s policy of allowing free speech, a policy that has made our country  perhaps the freest place in the world to utter unpopular views.

As Wikipedia notes: “Holocaust denial is explicitly or implicitly illegal in 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Liechtenstein,Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, and Switzerland.” And, as Abigail Esman writes in the Forbes article highlighted below:

Mein Kampf is banned in the Netherlands.  France last week criminalized the denial of the Armenian genocide in Turkey  (an act that resulted in widespread condemnation by the OIC, whose Secretary General, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, had the audacity, days after the ratification of 16/18,  to bluster that those who defend cartoons that mock Mohammed as “freedom of thought and expression” have no business limiting the speech of those who deny the Armenian genocide. “This is an indisputable and unacceptable paradox,” he declared). And so on.

As Christopher Hitchens pointed out in one of his most eloquent talks, this kind of suppression of speech is odious and counterproductive (go listen to hear his reasons; I’ve linked to the first of his four-part talk). Unless all opinions and evidence can be freely discussed without censorship, it’s hard for the truth to rise to the top.  That, after all, is how science works.

We need the right to freely and publicly criticize politicians, religious people and their beliefs, and historians—indeed, even those historians who affirm the Holocaust.  I’ve learned a lot listening to Holocaust deniers, including ways that they resemble other conspiracy theorists, the methods that Nazis used to suppress information about the gas chambers, and the paucity of direct written links between Hitler himself and the extirpation of the Jews.  It should not be a crime to promulgate such denialism, odious though those viewpoints may seem.

For several years, a resolution has been brewing in the United Nations that will suppress free speech under the guise of protecting religions from criticism that could incite them to violence.  Now guess which religion would be seeking this kind of protection? Hint: it’s a faith that threatens violence whenever it’s criticized.

Yep, you guessed it. It’s Islam, and at issue is Resolution 16/18 of the United Nations Human Rights Council (have a look at it.) It ostensibly protects all religions, but the people pushing it are, of course, Muslims.

As Abigail Esman at Forbes notes in her informative piece, “Could you be a criminal? U.S. supports UN anti-freespeech measure,” the US long resisted the resolution because it contravened our First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of speech. But now the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (a consortium of Islamic Nations) has tweaked the language to make it palatable to America, and they’ve succeded:  Obama and Secretary of State Clinton are supporting the resolution, and the U.S. may sign on.

The resolution is meant to prevent criticism of Islam. Originally it tried to prohibit “defamation,” but of course that’s no crime in the U.S. So the language changed: it’s now illegal to criticize faith in a way that incites violence.   (That’s a form of free speech that, under some circumstances, is also prohibited in America).

This is what the resolution says (the highlighting in part 3 is mine):

[The UN Human Rights Council]

1. Expresses deep concern at the continued serious instances of derogatory stereotyping, negative profiling and stigmatization of persons based on their religion or belief, as well as programmes and agendas pursued by extremist organizations and groups aimed at creating and perpetuating negative stereotypes about religious groups, in particular when condoned by Governments;

2. Expresses its concern that incidents of religious intolerance, discrimination and related violence, as well as of negative stereotyping of individuals on the basis of religion or belief, continue to rise around the world, and condemns, in this context, any advocacy of religious hatred against individuals that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, and urges States to take effective measures, as set forth in the present resolution, consistent with their obligations under international human rights law, to address and combat such incidents;

3. Condemns any advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, whether it involves the use of print, audio-visual or electronic media or any other means;

4. Recognizes that the open public debate of ideas, as well as interfaith and intercultural dialogue, at the local, national and international levels can be among the best protections against religious intolerance and can play a positive role in strengthening democracy and combating religious hatred, and convinced that a continuing dialogue on these issues can help overcome existing misperceptions;

5. Notes the speech given by Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference at the fifteenth session of the Human Rights Council, and draws on his call on States to take the following actions to foster a domestic environment of religious tolerance, peace and respect, by . .

What’s the problem? After all, it’s illegal in the United States to make a speech or print an article where the likely and forseeable consequence is violence. Other forms of speech are also restricted, including those that are defamatory, abrogation commercial rights, or promote child pornography.

The problem, as Esman notes, is this: forms of speech that would incite some religious groups to violence would not do so for others. (Note as well that incitement to “discrimination,” a much more slippery issue, is also prohibited).

Islam is particularly sensitive in this respect: people were murdered over Danish cartoons and the anti-Islamic movie Fitna, and a British teacher in the Sudan was threatened with jail and lashing for “disrepecting Islam” by naming a teddy bear “Muhamed” in her class (many Muslim boys, of course, bear exactly that name).  The fact is that any substantive criticism of Islam can be, and often is, taken as an offense that justifies violence.

Not all religions react this way.  As Esman notes in her piece,

The only limitation on speech that is in the operative part of the resolution is incitement to “imminent violence”, which is in accordance with US law.

But others are less forgiving, noting, among other things, that the resolution does nothing to prevent the continued use of anti-Jewish materials in the schools of Saudi Arabia (where the Protocols of Zion are treated as fact, thereby absolving Saudis of charges of “racism”) or the ongoing persecution of Jews and Christians in numerous Muslim countries.   And yet, ironically,it was exactly those same countries who initiated the motion, as put forth in its initial drafts by the General Assembly, with expressions of concern for “cases motivated by Islamophobia, Judeophobia, and Christanophobia.”

Indeed, as M. Zuhdi Jasser, an observant American Muslim and the founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, remarked in an e-mail, “Anyone who believes that Resolution 16’18 is some kind of a breakthrough is sadly being duped by the most obvious Islamist double discourse.  The shift from ‘defamation’ to ‘incitement’ does nothing at all to change the basic paradigm where Islamist nations remain in the offense, continuing to put Western, free nations on the defense.”

Let’s look at a couple of anti-Semitic cartoons, the kind that often appear in the Arab press:

In this cartoon, from Al-Watan (Oman) (August 10, 2002), Jewish acts are equated with those of the Nazis. This Nazi-type anti-Semitic caricature of a Jew has a hooked nose, a hunched back, has no shoes, and is sweating.

This cartoon, from the Syrian newspaper Al-Ahram (May 29, 2002), shows an anti-Semitic caricature of a Jew with a long beard and hooked nose, fuelling the “World Media” with “Zionist Media” propaganda, while in the background bombs are falling on the Moslem al-Aqsa shrine on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. This cartoon stereotypes Jews, repeats the anti-Semitic myth that the Jews control the world media, and adds the lie that the Israeli government has damaged the al-Aqsa complex on the Temple Mount.

The cartoon [below], with text in English designed for a foreign audience, was posted on the official website of the Palestinian Authority State Information Center on April 6, 2003. The Palestinian Authority State Information Center regularly posts ugly anti-Israel and anti-American cartoons, including this reiteration of the anti-Semitic blood libel that Jews kill non-Jewish children.

Want more? Go here and here. I presume you know that cartoons like this are regular features in some of the Arab press.

Vile stuff? Certainly.  Should it be banned? Of course not! And not because it’s an incitement to violence, for we don’t see Jews around the world going on killing sprees in reaction to such cartoons. Only Muslims do that, and in response to cartoons far less provocative.

The problem is that by deliberately assuming the posture of being offended, and then rioting and killing when they are offended, religions can assure themselves protection under the UN resolution. Those religions that may be offended, but don’t commit violence over it, aren’t protected. In other words, Muslims can provoke Jews in the vilest way possible, and that’s okay, but if you publish a picture of Muhamed with a bomb in his turban, you’re inciting violence, and you’re toast. The former act allowed; the latter is prohibited.

What forms of anti-religious speech should be prohibited? Not many. As Hitchens has noted, I believe, he wouldn’t stand on the Temple Mount and preach to a crowd of Jews that Muslims are evil and should be killed (or vice versa). That sort of speech does pose an imminent danger to life and liberty.  But that’s the rare exception.  It should not be illegal to parody or mock any religion in any way, no matter how much those religions’ adherents evince “sensitive feelings” and threaten violence if those feelings are bruised.

What’s happening here is that Islam is seeking special protections not afforded to other faiths. We should not let ourselves be bullied by this stance, or by this resolution.  Resolution 16/18 is an offense to the American tradition of free speech, and it’s odious that both Obama and Hillary Clinton are supporting it.

h/t: Malgorzata for the cartoon links

106 thoughts on “U.S. supports UN’s suppression of speech that criticizes religion

  1. You might also argue that the resolution would make Islam itself illegal, as it continually advocates religious hatred and violence.

    1. Not just Islam. And let’s pass over the murderous incitements of the Ancient Testament that resonate so mightily when set to music by Handel, and which never fail to shock my Christian friends when I make them read the actual words.
      Let’s just consider the symbol of the supposedly meek.

      When Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci travelled from Tianjin to the Imperial Court at Beijing in 1600, court eunuch Ma Tang inspected his luggage and discovered a crucifix. In Ricci’s words:

      There was one thing that caused great surprise among them, and which also caused the greatest trouble to us: the discovery among our possessions of a beautiful crucifix, engraved in wood and in vivid red colour that seemed like real blood. At that point, the cruel eunuch started denouncing us: “You have made this object for casting a spell on our Emperor to kill him. People who carry such objects cannot be good.” He really thought that there was something evil about it.

      Fonti Ricciane, II, 115

      The ensuing scandal was huge: the army was called in, Ricci was detained for six months for “bewitching” men with “poisonous sorcery,” and for using the crucifix to assassinate the emperor “by enchantment.” The missionary proved unable to explain the meaning of the crucifixion in a manner intelligible to Chinese sensitivities: he dared not state that the torture and killing of a man was the symbol of God the Jesuits wished to present to China, and he began to realise the horror that had been caused by the cruelty reflected in the image. His Chinese friends recommended that “they grind the other crucifixes they had with them to dust so that no trace would remain of them.”

      Crucifix to Blendtec: Will It Blend? En masse?
      I bet this is one potential consequence of Res. 16/18 that the State Department did not anticipate.

  2. This resolution should be condemned. I have little doubt that the republicans will use it to attack the administration and for once I agree with them.
    But in the real world will it make a difference? I seriously doubt it.

    1. Back when that preacher was threatening to (and eventually did) burn a Quran, it was amazing the number of atheists who condemned him as reckless, even partly blaming him for the violence that happened sometime later. Yet some of the same people were all upset when Charlie Hebdoe got bombed.

      Free speech must be rabidly defended regardless of who or why is exercising it.

      1. It surely was reckless of the Preacher to burn the Koran and deliberately so, I would suggest.
        If some atheists condemned his action that does not equate with any infringement of his right to free speech – surely they were just asserting their own right to free speech.
        I agree that if we believe in free speech – which I do – then we have to accept that this applies to everyone no matter how abhorent the views they may express. But if someone says something that i believe is harmful/abhorent I am certainly within my rights to express my outrage/regret/despair that they said it. Expressing such an opinion is quite different from passing laws that prohibit the expression of opinion, intimidating people who espouse the ‘wrong’ view or any of the other ways in which people’s right to express themselves freely can be constrained.
        I don’t see any contradiction in criticising the preacher for his book burning and condemning the islamists who destroyed the Charlie Hebdo office. Both were the actions of numbskulls who prefer to suppress ideas (which burning the Koran does just as much a burning the Origin of the Species, Rushdie’s Satanic Verses or any other book that has ever offended some group or other’s world view).

        I fully agree with you, though, that the right to free speech should be fiercely defended regardless of the views expressed or of who is expressing them.

  3. So the muslims calling for this resolution are thin skinned violent reactionaries, and hypocrites?

    Quelle surprise.

  4. Crude question: could UNHRC Resolution 16/18 enlist US support even if the adherents to the creed of its most vociferous proponents were not sitting atop the world’s largest oil reserves?

  5. An anti-blasphemy law was passed in my country of birth, Ireland, about three years ago that used similar language to the current UN resolution. In particular it made the outrage felt by the religious group in question key to the issue of whether a statement was deemed blasphemous or not.
    I suspected at the time that the law was not simply another case of the Catholic church imposing its will on the country and I think I was correct. They never tried to support the law and seemed more bemused than anything that such a law had been even proposed.
    The impetus for the law actually came from businesses who dealt with the middle east (beef and dairy food producers) and who wanted to ensure that there was no repeat of the Danish cartoon incident coming from Ireland.
    The most horrifying aspect of the Irish law is not that it was put into effect (the Irish government changed and nobody in the replacement wants to bring embarrassment on the country by prosecuting someone for blasphemy) but, rather, that the wording was enthusiastically taken up by the OIC, who have no doubt seen a chance to justify and modify their own UN proposal.
    Those readers in the US should be proud of your first amendment rights and should not let them disappear so easily.

  6. When Obama held his speech in Egypt he said that the quran states that ‘killing a man is killing all of mankind’. It was a speech of statesman, very elegant, but the phrase is out of its context. Actually, the quran encourages killing ‘infidels’, so Osama bin Laden’s logic was crystal clear.

    Maybe the extreme violence promoted by the quran is also a matter for the UN? The quran should be read by anyone who wants to understand the minds of muslim terrorists. Here is a citation:

    ‘When you meet infidels, cut their throats and let the blood flow’. 47:4

    I can not but help thinking of the resemblance with the Lords of Krikkit.


  7. I agree that cartoon (1) and (2) are anti-semitic. I don’t think the same holds true for (3) however. In 2003 Sharon was prime minister of Israel and this was a terrible year for the Palestinians largely due to Israeli actions. To say that Sharon had blood on his hands is hardly an exaggeration.

  8. Much ado about nothing. The resolution is not a law, for one, and none of its calls for actions for states explicitly discuss banning any speech at all. Methinks you’re overreacting to an innocuous UN resolution from a body without any real power.

    And, by the way, Ihsanoglu is right: it is ludicrous to defend the Mohammad cartoons and yet outlaw denying the Armenian holocaust (or the Jewish Holocaust, for that matter). Trying to ban either is wrong.

  9. I have found that the only people that ask for censorship are those that are unable to rationally defend their beliefs. We are supposed to fight racism by not hearing it? I want my opponents to say what they want, so I don’t have to go hacking away at straw men. Don’t we LOVE it when the creationists come out with new “material”? I know I do.

    If Joey keeps punching Jack on the playground for saying the sky is blue, the solution is not to prevent Jack from talking, not even if Jack is wrong or offensive. This is such an obvious and stupid ploy I am amazed anyone can fall for it.

  10. I’m a little confused here.

    There’s a difference between speech that calls for/endorses/advocates/incites violence and speech that is likely to get a reaction of violence though none is advocated or endorsed.

    In one case, the speaker bears a responsibility related to intent, whereas in the other, the reactor bears sole responsibility.

    “constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence”

    Is making a statement you know is likely to result in a violent reaction against you inciting violence?

    This resolution is very ambiguously worded. The word hostility is especially dangerous.

    From dictionary.com:


    noun, plural -ties.
    a hostile state, condition, or attitude; enmity; antagonism; unfriendliness.
    a hostile act.
    opposition or resistance to an idea, plan, project, etc. ”

    Definitions 1 and 3 pretty much would prohibit and religious criticism.

    Considering the definition of hostile:


    of, pertaining to, or characteristic of an enemy: a hostile nation.
    opposed in feeling, action, or character; antagonistic: hostile criticism.
    characterized by antagonism.
    not friendly, warm, or generous; not hospitable. ”

    Definitions 2, 3, and 4 can be used to make even definition 2 of hostility prohibit any religious criticism.

    1. The ‘fighting words’ definition is much more narrow than people realize. It applies specifically to words that could cause an unthinking immediate emotional reaction (fire in a theater), NOT words (even the same words) in a context where they could be examined at a distance. The same words that could be ‘fighting words’ on the street, are not necessarily so in a blog

    2. More of same.

      The problem, as Esman notes, is this: forms of speech that would incite some religious groups to violence would not do so for others.


      Islam is particularly sensitive in this respect: people were murdered over Danish cartoons and the anti-Islamic movie Fitna, and a British teacher in the Sudan was threatened with jail and lashing for “disrepecting Islam” by naming a teddy bear “Muhamed” in her class (many Muslim boys, of course, bear exactly that name).

      Technically, none of that is “inciting to violence”. Rather, that is “exciting to violence”.

      Incitement would require the act be “persuading, encouraging, instigating, pressuring, or threatening another” to be violent. Excitement is when others react with violence when not directly called.

      Legally (though IAmNotALawyer), there seems to be an actus rea of “violence resulting” by the second party in both instances. Incitement further requires either a Purposeful or Knowing mens rea; Recklessly or Negligently is not enough. (This standard may well vary between states; see previous parenthetical.) It also seems to require that there be an actus rea on the party of the first part of advocacy, expressing favor of or otherwise urging the course of action. Merely waving a Nazi flag in the middle of an NAACP convention probably wouldn’t qualify as advocacy; it thus wouldn’t count as incitement to riot, merely gross provocation to riot. (If it triggered a riot by the KKK, lighting a cross at a Klan rally might be incitement, as it traditionally symbolizes a “call to arms” for the KKK.) That said, I’d be seriously worried about the fine print of the translations and implementation; I recall hearing of other cases where the Arabic and English translations differed markedly.

      The problem, oddly, is not that Islam is particularly under attack, but it it is particularly vulnerable to criticism. Both the Qoran (and, incidentally, Mein Kampf, and the Bible) contain content that would appear to qualify as advocacy; it’s probably closer to Reckless disregard than Knowing near-certainty of violence being triggered, but there might be cases where it would be debated.

  11. To clarify: “speech that is likely to get a reaction of violence though none is advocated or endorsed.”

    Maybe I should add, “implied or desired”

  12. Agreed, laws already in place to protect against violence and discrimination should be more than sufficient. Further, nothing is above criticism or should demand special privileges; in that regard people should be free to criticize religion and the religious. Religion is not true and only delusions and dissonance with facts continue its existence.

    The Abrahamic religions and certainly many other religions are themselves fundamentally intolerant so I cannot see why they deserve any respect. As Hitchens says, religion poisons everything and he makes a strong case in “god is not Great”.

    I strongly suspect adherence to this resolution will be applied in a hypocritical manner by some countries.

  13. One good thing about not censoring genocide denial is that you get to know who exactly these deniers are. That way we can avoid and ridicule them.

    That goes for islamophobia as well.

  14. Isn’t this just going to encourage people to respond violently to any criticism so that future instances of it can be shown to be likely to incite violence?

  15. Condemns any advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence

    Romans 1:26–32: the gays deserve to die. Surely this qualifies as “advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.”

    “This is why God delivered them over to degrading passions. For even their females exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. The males in the same way also left natural relations with females and were inflamed in their lust for one another. Males committed shameless acts with males and received in their own persons the appropriate penalty of their error.
    And because they did not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God, God delivered them over to a worthless mind to do what is morally wrong. They are filled with all unrighteousness, evil, greed, and wickedness. They are full of envy, murder, quarrels, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, arrogant, proud, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful. Although they know full well God’s just sentence—that those who practice such things deserve to die—they not only do them, but even applaud others who practice them.” —Romans 1:26–32

  16. We need the right to freely and publicly criticize politicians, religious people and their beliefs, and historians—indeed, even those historians who affirm the Holocaust.

    How about criticizing otherwise supposedly competent evolutionary biologists who, once they stray off the narrow reservation of their own competency (for example, Coyne’s pseudo-philosophizing) they make posteriors of themselves?

    1. @Holopupenko

      I don’t believe the UN has a resolution that would prohibit that, so your comment is off topic.

      Also the UN has no resolution against attempting to hijack comment threads for unrelated criticism of the site owner, so that’s only subject to the will of the site owner, not the UN.

    2. What are you talking about? No-one is suppressing you or anyone else’s right to free expression.

      Of course, if all you have to add is lame insults aimed at the owner of this website, you are going to find yourself as welcome as a guest that persists on relieving itself on his host’s carpet. But that isn’t the same thing.

      Freedom of expression does not include anyone else being obliged to provide a platform for you to post your sneers. How about you get your own blog?

  17. We had a discussion similar to this in the UK a few years ago. As soon as we had abolished our blasphemy law, Tony Blair’s government tried to introduce a new law against ‘incitement to religious hatred’ which was very vaguely defined. At one point it was laughably proposed that an exception to the law should be allowed for ‘Holy Books’. In the end, a very watered down version of the law scraped its way through Parliament and was quickly forgotten about. A part of me was a little disappointed, I was looking forward to marching into the local Cop Shop with a brand new Bible and demanding the prosecution of the people who sold it to me.

  18. Bravo, Jerry, for such a quick response to the dangers involved in the acceptance of this resolution of the UNHRC (adopted, be it noted, without a vote!). I have linked Esman’s article over on choiceindying.com, and there is already quite a comment thread. I am very concerned about this resolution and I think we all should be. One thing that is notable by its absence in the resolution, which I have also uploaded, is that it does not include a word about atheism or disbelief, but applauds the value of religion as providing insight into values held in common by all peoples, which is, not to beat around the bush, a lie.

      1. Perhaps, but this isn’t a treaty. Even if it were, the US would claim to comply with its operative provisions by pointing to its existing prohibition on words that incite imminent violence.

  19. Karl:

    You’re a bit slow on the pick-up: Coyne was criticized for selective inattention, i.e., for not including himself (or others posing as specialists outside their fields) in his list of those deserving scrutiny–UN resolutions or private blog prerogatives notwithstanding. I guess scientists and atheists who philosophize that badly are immune from any criticism… or if that criticism is not “scientific” (cue: peels of laughter) then it’s a priori not valid in the first place?

    1. You have every right to criticize him, but when you do not mention any particular points worthy of criticism and only bad mouth him because he has the courage not to be politically correct, others also have the right to call you a stupid troll.

    2. I think you mean “peals” of laughter. “Peel” is more appropriate to the yellow skin surrounding a banana.

      1. Similarly, from the Department of Redundancy Department:

        then it’s a priori not valid in the first place

    3. This is incoherent.

      – Coyne has not been accused of something that falls under the UN resolution. Atheism is not a religion or a belief, it is a practice of non-belief.

      – Coyne as a scientist and seemingly as a citizen (see above) accepts criticism without exception.

      If you go to UN and want atheism protected, they will laugh at you.

    4. How can he slow on the pick up, when you didn’t provide anything to pick up? All you have provided is the kind of witless empty sneering so beloved of people who are convinced of their intellectual superiority, but are unable to construct any form of proper argument.

    5. Coyne was criticized for selective inattention

      I saw no criticism, only a nonsensical insult. You started off this comment with another. Based on the evidence, I have to conclude that you are unable to distinguish intellectual criticism from vapid posturing, and can thus be ignored as noise.

  20. Thank you for this, I am frankly worried by the UN resolution that goes against not only US but european and other’s freedom of speech.

    However, even Sweden has problems with constraints on free speech. Some of that is based on EU concerns:

    “European Convention specifies the following reasons that are acceptable to restrict freedom of expression:

    “… the interests of national security;
    territorial integrity or public safety;
    the prevention of disorder or crime,
    to protection of health or morals,
    for the protection of another’s good name and reputation, or rights,
    to prevent the confidential disclosure of information received or
    for maintaining the authority and impartiality “.

    The restrictions vary widely from country to country.” [Google translate]

    Especially the relatively new concept of “hate crime” has introduced many potential free speech concerns.

    And I didn’t know that the islamic societies gave as good as they get on cartoons. So it is all bigotry and special pleading, as usual.

    1. I’m not sure those exceptions are that big a deal, frankly. Aren’t they simply stating that if you:
      * give out the details of security installations
      * incite riots, or conspire to commit other crimes
      * blackmail or libel others
      * copy protected works or distribute confidential information without permission,
      you can’t escape responsibility for your actions simply by stating that you have a right of free expression?

      1. See comments below as to how criticism of religion (esp Islam) can lead to the charge of “inciting riots”.

      2. In India, for example, Satanic Verses is banned on the grounds that it “incited riots”, which, in the first place, were mostly undertaken by violent religious fanatics demanding to ban the book. Isn’t that sweet? If you need to get something banned, just break a few shop windows, and bingo! Instant banning!

  21. islamic countries execute/murder for this, by passing this, they will execute/murder even more on a global scale. it is the same as the street gangs that say he disrespected me so he had it coming as do the islamic thugs, and they use any little thing as a sign of offense, even a made up one. the world would be a better place without islam.

  22. OT here, but in the context of the follies of religion: Sweden has from today, or thereabouts, an officially acknowledged religious society for Copyism (torrent sharing of copies).

    As in so many cases of newfound religious societies it is founded by students. Since the state will grant tax exemption but not organizational funds (which only goes to the large religions by way of a special bureau), it is likely that it is founded to get around accusations of “file piracy”.

    So it is much as most religions. =D

  23. “The problem is that by deliberately assuming the posture of being offended, and then rioting and killing when they are offended, religions can assure themselves protection under the UN resolution.” — Jerry Coyne

    I’d like to stress that point and be more explicit. Such a law incentivizes religions to be violent, and not just Muslims. It won’t take long for the more intolerant sects to realize that they can force their critics to shutup by becoming violent.

    It creates the worst possible incentive.

  24. “Who are your favorite heroines in real life? The women of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran who risk their lives and their beauty to defy the foulness of theocracy. Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Azar Nafisi as their ideal feminine model.”
    Christopher Hitchens,

    “Islam makes very large claims for itself. In its art, there is a prejudice against representing the human form at all. The prohibition on picturing the prophet – who was only another male mammal – is apparently absolute. So is the prohibition on pork or alcohol or, in some Muslim societies, music or dancing. Very well then, let a good Muslim abstain rigorously from all these. But if he claims the right to make me abstain as well, he offers the clearest possible warning and proof of an aggressive intent.”
    Christopher Hitchens

  25. “advocacy of religious hatred” are pretty strong words. hard to imagine that the Danish cartoons would fall under this category. Can’t possibly be interpreted to include parody – thinking here of Jesus and Mo and Mr. Diety.

    But it is surely an effective strategy to give the believable apprearance of craziness to get your threats taken seriously.

  26. This is eerily reminiscent of Islamic doctrines that render women culpable for “inciting” violence and sexual deviance among men by dressing “provocatively.”

    This is perilously close to legalizing a mechanism for blaming the victims of religiously-motivated violence. Is this not tantamount to legitimizing such violence, provided adequate evidence of “hostility?”

    It is shameful that our government has been badgered into supporting such a blatant rebuke of our historical support for human rights and free speech.

    1. That is the whole point of religion, to blame the victim for; not having enough faith, for not doing as they’re told, for not thinking the right thoughts. Hinduism is the worst of course, for blaming the poor for not behaving well in their “previous lives”, but they all do it in one way or another. Everything is always your own fault, you just didn’t love god enough.

      1. Hinduism has a lot of silly and pernicious beliefs (casteism being perhaps the worst) but ‘blaming’ the poor for not behaving well in their “previous lives” is not one of them. Most of Hindu mythology idolized poverty as the very pinnacle of human sacrifice. All “true” Brahmins were supposed to live lives of poverty, and to rely upon alms for their daily needs, and the greatest sages in the mythological stories were shown to be exemplars of this. You would often see devout Hindus talking of ‘paying obeisance to “Daridra Narayan”‘ (literally: Poor God), which in plainer language just means giving alms to beggars.

        It seems probable that this might have had ulterior motives. There are historians with the view that this might have been a political manoeuvre, with the wealthy trying to keep the poor happy by giving them the assurance that while they may be poor, they were living lives of true piety, a “privilege” which was denied to the rich. In other words, a textbook case of religion as the opiate of the masses.

        As for the closest analog in Hindu mythology to what you said is probably the story of Sudama, a friend of Krishna, who is implied to be poor as an adult because as a kid he tried to steal more than his share of food in some kind of emergency. In the story though, when the poor Sudama comes to his old friend Krishna to ask for help, he is given a royal welcome in Krishna’s city.

  27. “Islam makes very large claims for itself. In its art, there is a prejudice against representing the human form at all. The prohibition on picturing the prophet – who was only another male mammal – is apparently absolute. So is the prohibition on pork or alcohol or, in some Muslim societies, music or dancing. Very well then, let a good Muslim abstain rigorously from all these. But if he claims the right to make me abstain as well, he offers the clearest possible warning and proof of an aggressive intent.”
    Christopher Hitchens

    “Who are your favorite heroines in real life? The women of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran who risk their lives and their beauty to defy the foulness of theocracy. Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Azar Nafisi as their ideal feminine model.”
    Christopher Hitchens,

    1. Now that was uncalled for.

      In fact, you’ve pissed me off so much with that comment that I don’t think I can control myself. I’ll be back in a bit, but I simply must vent my frustrations with some of my buddies by kicking in some of the downtown storefronts here in Colorado Springs.

      Then I’ll wait for this resolution to become the law of the land, and with any luck, they will pass the measure with a retroactive provision. Then I’ll sue your ass for making me and my buddies riot. Then we’ll see who’s laughing.

              1. I need one more… Fuck Mithra.

                Aah. OK. I think it’s going to be OK.

                Don’t touch it. I think I got them all to balance.

              1. May Xenu stuff himself in a supervolcano five seconds before it is going to explode and then land in a Solar Supernova, followed by ingestion by a Black Hole.

            1. If you knew the stories about Krishna, you would have chosen another insult :).

              The mythology of Krishna is about as far from the Catholic ideas of “purity” as it can possibly be. Most westerners I know just pronounce the verdict of “playboy” when they see the stories.

  28. Murderers are an oppressed downtrodden minority that need special protections. They are being picked on by those meany old victims. You’re kidding, right? Are you going to be telling me this is actually a Monty Python sketch?

  29. I’m a Dutchman. I once went to the effort of obtaining a copy of Mein Kampf and was forced to conclude that there were two things that should never had been given to Hitler: power and a pen.

    The claim that the book is banned in the Netherlands requires some qualifiers: it is not illegal to own or read or print the book, it’s just not allowed to be sold or bought.

    That being said, as far as I know there have never been repercussions for the sale of the book, and it is fairly easy to obtain a copy from abroad. As it is now, it feels more like an agreement among bookshops than a government-enforced ban.
    But needless to say, as it seems to be but a formality anyway, let’s do away with this silly and useless law.

  30. In India, for example, Satanic Verses is banned on the grounds that it “incited riots”, which, in the first place, were mostly undertaken by violent religious fanatics demanding to ban the book. Isn’t that sweet? If you need to get something banned, just break, or threaten to break, a few shop windows, and bingo! Instant banning!

    PS: Curiously, (and I am not sure on this) it is apparently not illegal to possess a copy of Satanic Verses in India. It is perhaps illegal to put it in a shop window, but it is apparently perfectly legal to import it in a cover (even if declared).

  31. Obama/Clinton supported this. So, what is one to do in the upcoming elections. “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, …” !!

  32. “Mein Kampf” is also banned in Poland. Though I can’t understand why. It’s just a piece of nonsense and realy bad written too.
    I think that using the fact that in some muslim countries there’s (and will be) a lot of hate-related speech in media changes nothing. Are we realy want to be like Saudi Arabia? I don’t think so. Yet yelding under the pressure of Muslims and restricting free speech is just stupid. Free speech is something we should be proud of – one of the best accomplishments of Western civilisation.

  33. I think Obama has finally reached the point where voting for the lesser of two evils from a liberal standpoint – is voting for the Republicans.

  34. The only supportable reason for banning published opinions could be that they immediately incite violence *on the part of those who agree with the opinions* – not because *others* could feel offended and become violent.

  35. I’m a simple soul. My take on this resolution is equally simple:

    If you don’t want us to criticism your religion in any way then you have to prove, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that your religion’s god(s) exist.

    Until then, we can say what we like and, draw cartoons as much as we like, because the god(s) we mock are imaginary, don’t exist, never have, never will.

    Prove me wrong and I’ll change my tune. Until then, “take advice on sex and travel”.


    PS. Had the Jehova’s Witless at the door. Two of, as usual. I’m working so they got the abridged version (no, I wasn’t rude) and they went on their way with my best wishes. They didn’t stand a chance.

    1. All persons, whether religious or not should accept the following statement as fact:

      Nearly all religions are definitely wrong.

      Most religious persons believe that all but one religion is wrong, while most atheists would say those people are off by one.

      1. Grammatical correction:

        “all but one religion is wrong”

        change to

        “all religions but one are wrong”

  36. About Hitlers ‘Mein Kampf’ being forbidden in the Netherlands: I strongly suspect that the true reason for that is that this book (which was translated into Dutch) is so revealing about Hitlers Christian views. The book is full of references to God and to Christianity. Hitlers portrays himself as a true believer and a ‘Christian soldier’.
    See: http://nobeliefs.com/hitler.htm
    I suppose that after the war, many Dutch Christians found this quite embarrassing. Many of them, without being Nazi, had hoped that the Germans would eradicate Bolshevist and Jewish ‘atheism’.

  37. Hello
    Do people feel that acceptance of this kind of erosion of free expression (not the demand for such anti-blasphemy strictures) is partly due to the “everything-I-know-I-learned-in-kindergarten” mentality? That is, with the introduction since the 70’s of anti-bullying and pro-tolerance curriculum such as http://www.religioustolerance.org/islphob.htm as well as the concept of hate speech and the fear that one’s opinion could cross some line, has that Zeitgeist chilled freedom of speech in The West? In a similar way does the grade school emphasis on sharing lead to redistributionist movements such as OWS?

    Also, is there, in peoples opinion, a bit to much emphasis on self-respect and self-esteem to the detriment of bookish values and academic achievements that we call in the adult world meritocracy? Perhaps it is only self-preservation that demands us to “give a sop to cerberus” that is, placation, lest mentally ill brainwashed Islamic and other sensitive types engage in violence. For example, when the Fla. preacher threatened a book burning, it was predictable someone might die who had nothing to due with that act. So, why shove a stick in a hornets’ nest, even a long one?

    On the other hand, acceptance can be construed as approval – I’ll pretend that you are a normal person and you pretend to be normal – and this is how we get along until a real conflict over a real issue erupts and one can no longer paper over these differences.

    1. I think a big chunk of it is down to the children’s fascist movement that dominated cartoons in the 80’s – where dissenters were always shown as wrong and even harmful.

  38. Mein Kampf is not banned in The Netherlands. It’s not available because the Bavarian government owns the copyrights and refuses to make it available. Just a few years and everyone can put it in the display of his/her shop. To be found even on English Wikipedia, lemma Mein Kampf.
    Abigail Esman is ill-informed.

  39. This is a tempest in a teapot.

    Resolution 16/18 of the United Nations Human Rights Council is a non-binding resolution.

    So all you Chicken-Littles out there should stop worrying about 16/18.

    1. No one is crying that the sky is falling. We dislike the motivations behind the resolution. There are anti-blasphemy laws in many countries and other restrictions on what we think should be protected speech. Comprende?

  40. Wikepedia……………. which is often cited on this site has proven to be a very unreliable source of information in my experience as a historian.

    Rarely do I view a page relevant to my specialties that some error of fact does not present itself. Even worse, my few attempts to correct some of these errors were promptly changed by some know-nothing “editor” who may or may not possess even the most basic understanding of the subject hr or she is addressing. The lesson is this, do not cite Wikepedia if you want to be taken seriously by other professionals.

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