It becomes more and more crucial that people and their right to free expression be protected against religion and religious fanatics. On March 16, Jordan submitted a request for the inclusion of an emergency item in the agenda of the 132nd Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. The “emergency item” is a document entitled “Respect for Religions and Religious Symbols, Respect for Freedom of Opinion and Expression.” Note the contradiction in the title.
The document includes an “explanatory memorandum (Annex II)” that begins,
Insults to religions and religious symbols are uncivilized actions that have very serious consequences on all humanity, as they prevent the meeting of minds and dialogue and feed religious extremism and fanaticism, terrorism and violence.
The word insults is used for maximum emotive effect to justify imposing limits to freedom of opinion and expression. The “very serious consequences” are a threat and a reminder of the religious extremism and fanaticism, terrorism and violence that took place recently in Paris and Copenhagen.
Annex II suggests,
The best way to remedy the problem – or even to prevent it – is mutual respect for religions and religious symbols, and dialogue. Such dialogue between believers is a human need that cannot be neglected, given the numerous principles all religions share. . . . There must be greater awareness of the culture of dialogue in order to promote peaceful co-existence among believers.
emphasizing “dialogue between believers” while it seeks to curtail that dialogue and leaves no place for any dialogue between believers and non-believers.
“Draft resolution (Annex III)” goes on to make large claims for religion as a benign influence and
Stresses the spiritual value of religions and the fundamental role they play in solving humanitarian problems and tackling the various challenges faced by the international community.
It is outrageous that the “Respect for Religions” document “condemns insults against any religion, its values, principles, books, symbols, practices or holy shrines” while it contradicts the respect for freedom of opinion and expression included in its title.
The “Respect for Religions” document has been challenged:
In an open letter to IPU delegates [PDF], co-signed by dozens of human rights advocacy organizations including the IHEU and freedom of expression specialists, the signatories dispute Jordan’s false reading of freedom of expression, noting that in fact the “Respect for Religions” resolution “is incompatible with international human rights law”.