UN Human Rights Council votes to ban Qur’an burning

July 14, 2023 • 11:15 am

I’ve added a new category label just for this post: “UN acting badly”. That’s because they act badly very often, especially in their constant funding of Palestine and its terrorists (via UNRWA) and repeated resolutions damning Israel (which also hearten Palestinian terrorists).

From Secularism.org we have a new report that the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) voted to ban Qur’an burnings, which of course is considered free speech in the U.S.  They also, to give the impression of fairness, banned burning of other religious books. As for secular books like On Liberty: crickets from the UN.

An excerpt:

The National Secular Society has warned a United Nations resolution to ban the burning of religious texts could be detrimental to human rights.

Members of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) today voted in favour of a resolution for the “deliberately and publicly” burning of the Quran or “any other holy book” to be prohibited by law.

The UK voted against the resolution. In a statement yesterday, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said: “we do not accept that, by definition, attacks on religion, including on religious texts or symbols, constitute advocacy for hatred”.

Other states opposed to the motion included France, Germany and the USA, but they were outvoted 28 to 12. [7 countries abstained]

The resolution follows a high profile incident in Sweden last month, when Iraqi refugee Salwan Momika burned a Quran outside a mosque in Stockholm. Momika is an atheist formerly from Iraq’s persecuted minority Christian community.

The resolution was introduced by Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which has long supported efforts to curtail ‘blasphemous’ speech.

The OIC is an intergovernmental organisation of 57 states and claims to be the “collective voice of the Muslim world”. Although it stopped explicitly campaigning for a global blasphemy law in 2011, it has repeatedly spearheaded attempts to install “backdoor” blasphemy laws. The NSS warned the UN of the OIC’s attempts to use ‘hate speech’ laws to restrict free expression last year.

The resolution passed was amended to include the explicit provision that burning the Quran and other holy books should be banned. The original resolution did not include this statement.

This was a deeply divided vote, with most Western countries voting against the resolution and Muslim countries (and other nations like Cuba and UKRAINE) favoring the ban. Here’s how the vote went down:

More background from the Guardian:

Last month, an Iraqi-born protester caused outrage across the Muslim world after tearing pages from the Qur’an, wiping his shoes with some of them and burning others outside a mosque in Stockholm during the Eid al-Adha holiday.

The Swedish embassy in Baghdad was briefly stormed, Iran held off from sending a new ambassador to Stockholm and the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) condemned Sweden’s authorities and asked the Geneva-based UN human rights council to debate the issue.

Turkey also expressed its anger, citing “vile protests against the holy book” in Sweden as one of its reasons for withholding approval of the Scandinavian country’s application to join Nato. On Monday, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, had agreed to set aside his veto and support the application.

Several similar protests had previously taken place in Stockholm and Malmö. Swedish police have received applications for more, from individuals wanting to burn religious texts including the Qur’an, the Bible and the Torah.

This of course is an abrogation of free speech (the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that burning the Constitution, U.S. flag, and other such documents is speech protected by the First Amendment). It’s also a form of “blasphemy law”, though I don’t think the UN has any power to enforce it. Still, it shows you how many countries, including UKRAINE, limit freedom of speech when that speech involves criticizing religious delusion.  You can burn The God Delusion or God is Not Great, of course, as the UN doesn’t care about that. But keep your matches away from religious scripture!

This is embarrassing in a world becoming increasingly secular.  Here’s some pushback from Britain’s National Secular Society:

NSS chief executive Stephen Evans said: “Equating the desecration of religious books and symbols with incitement to violence is a pernicious attempt to impose blasphemy laws by stealth. The Islamic nations behind this resolution have long been more interested in protecting religion than protecting individuals.

“Speech and expression must be viewed in context. Crude attempts to impose blanket prohibitions clearly risk capturing and silencing legitimate expression and dissent.

“Democratic societies must find ways to combat intolerance and hatred without further restricting freedom of expression to meet increasing sensitivities of certain religious groups.”

Amen, brothers and sisters!

h/t: Dave

29 thoughts on “UN Human Rights Council votes to ban Qur’an burning

  1. How would anyone know if a Koran is being burned – or if it was a fake Koran?

    “Hey, look – smoke!”
    “Ah – must be a Koran or two. Maybe three.”
    “Yeah – I heard a guy said he used a real big Koran!”
    “That settles it – time to invade!”

    1. Fake or not, it only needs to be holy to some people:

      Members of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) today voted in favour of a resolution for the “deliberately and publicly” burning of the Quran or “any other holy book” to be prohibited by law.

      The good news is that it should cover the bibles as well, both the real one and the fake one.

  2. Given the nature of UN committees (everyone has a go on being on them at one time or another), it’s inevitable that most member states on the Human Rights Council at any one time will be skewed heavily towards authoritarian regimes with very little to show for themselves in the way of principled defence of human rights — there are just more of them in the world. Sad to see Ukraine siding with that lot.

  3. I’m not certain as I have not looked up what the courts say about this in Canada (very small incidence of book burning in Canada ) but I expect that burning the Koran, Talmud, Old or New Testament could be seen as hate speech in Canadian law. A major difference between US and Canadian law of human rights, is that in Canada Free Speech does not trump all other constitutional rights, as seems to be the case in US law. All constitutionally protected rights are balanced against all others depending on the facts of the context.

    1. Homework: Read the Criminal Code of Canada Section 319 covering hate speech. Your final statement that Constitutional Charter rights are balanced against group identity rights is correct but to get to where you are appealing (on Charter grounds) a conviction, you have to be convicted of an actual offence first. You will quickly find that burning a Qur’an is not hate speech. It might well make observant Muslims hate you enough to want to kill you but that’s not what hate speech means. Combust away but watch for scimitars flashing in the firelight.

      The good news about this vote is that all the serious countries voted against it.

  4. What gets me about this whole business is how the Islamists fall so easily into the obvious trap set by their detractors. That guy in Sweden was pretty sure of the reaction his simple stunt would provoke, and it turned out he was absolutely right. All that shouting from the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation might be intended to show us the strength of their convictions, but what it looks like to me a demonstration of how fragile they are. After all, if they “retaliated” with a public burning of On the Origin of Species, every one of us would just shrug and say, oh well, you can always read it for free online. Such a gesture wouldn’t change a thing, because we happen to know we’re simply right. We’re not threatened, and they don’t impress us.

    1. Why would it be any different from other assemblies? But there doesn’t seem to be an analog to government selection in these intergovernmental bodies.

    2. Such a world government with an all-powerful, economically dirigiste sovereign is, by definition, necessary to solve the collective-action problem that is climate change. I don’t fully share your skepticism about the settled science for which there is no debate about the causes and consequences of global warming. But I hear you that efforts to impose draconian reductions in emissions will be obeyed only by foolish countries who listen to their radical fringe, and will be ignored by our totalitarian enemies and competitors.

      1. Perhaps there is a thread about the manmade rapid global warming that I am unaware of, else I don’t see how you got all that from a comment that appears to question a (non-existing) “world government”.

        Your second sentence is open to interpretation, but there is a lot of debate about the various factors that contributes as well as goes into the main anthropogenic drivers as well as consequences. That does not mean that the facts of being man made or that, if it has not already happened, it will be cheaper to curb emissions and consequences than ignoring it, are not solid. To stay competitive (I guess) it is claimed that both US and EU are moving toward “green [null net carbon emission] economies”, both politically and economically.

  5. “All that shouting from the Organization for Islamic Cooperation might be intended to show us the strength of their convictions, but what it looks like to me a demonstration of how fragile they are.”

    I was just about to post that exact sentiment. It’s almost as if it has come to their attention that their god seems to have no ability to protect himself. It must give one quite a sense of empowerment to believe that god needs you to protect him.

    1. My post, #9, was in reply to #7 by Peter N. I’m quite certain that I clicked the Reply link directly below his post so I don’t know why my post ended up stand alone. But that’s where it’s supposed to be.

  6. Speaking only my own behalf, I do not think it should be illegal to burn a book, you do not like. Would I burn a Qur’an, Bible, or Talmud? No. My view on this is similar to my view on joining the Nazi party. Should it be illegal? No. Would I? No.

    It turns out that a Berkeley professor (Grace Lavery) has actually advocated burning books (safely of course). The book in question was “Irreversible Damage” by Abigail Shrier.

  7. I find the aggravation against the burnings about as childish as the burnings themselves. And in the case of the UN human rights council a case of double morals since some of those nations do not care for many of the human rights including the sanctity of human lives nor always for minority faiths. Islam is now the second largest religion in Sweden, not at all persecuted as such.

    Regarding Salwan Momika it has turned out he is a member of the extreme right populist party that wish to minimize immigration. So perhaps this wasn’t as childish as I think of it. It also looks like a copycat of the many earlier book burnings of the extreme right populist Rasmus Paludan (who incidentally also has a double citizenship, Danish and Swedish, and live in Denmark).

    The newer copycats are different though. One seems to be a fundamentalist Christian, and another secular who was to burn the Bible and the Torah. That brought on a condemnation from Jewish church organizations again claiming that racism was involved, so it seems that book burner changed plans to instead be burning a NATO text.

    1. In this mornings news several articles show the above description is faulty. The person that wanted to burn the Bible and the Torah has a validated application to do so today. I’m not sure if this is a change back or, more likely, I misunderstood the original descriptions of the many copycat applications.

      Also, it appears there was a lot of Jewish and Israel condemnations on the Torah burning. The World Jewish Congress, the former and apparently religious prime minister Naftali Bennet, the Israeli president Isaac Herzog and the foreign minister Eli Cohen has all spoken out against this form of expression of free speech.

      [ https://omni.se/forre-premiarministern-en-krankning-mot-alla-judar/a/4oKzP6 , https://www.dn.se/sverige/torah-branning-planerad-utanfor-ambassad/ ]

  8. I really don’t understand. By allowing public burning of books (religious or not) and of national flags you give them more significance than they merit. After all, public burning of tires, garbage or your own items of clothing in front of a mosque, a church or a synagogue would be deemed a hazard and a policeman would quickly extinguish fire and take you away. If some friends have a campfire in a place which is safe (no danger of spreading the fire) they can burn whatever they like, be it Koran, Bible, Torah or American flag. People can do the same in the privacy of their homes. But why allow public burning of books and flags (but not anything else) on the streets of towns and cities with plenty of people around?

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