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October 28th, 2009 11:17 am
Global “Blasphemy” Treaty Tests Obama’s Faith in Engagement

The Christian Science Monitor reports that the Organization of the Islamic Council (OIC) is pushing members of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to approve of a proposed treaty to limit religiously offensive language or speech. Since the United States is now a member of the UNHRC, the proposal offers President Barack Obama yet another chance to see if engagement will lead to better results than confrontation.

The United States under Barack Obama recently joined the UNHRC, maligned for years as the mouthpiece for countries that are themselves flagrant human rights abusers. A “new” council formed in 2006. President Obama’s hope is that as an engaged member, the US can further reform – and its own interests. This case will test his theory.

Consider the wording put forth by Pakistan, written on behalf of the OIC. It proposes “legal prohibition of publication of material that negatively stereotypes, insults or uses offensive language” on matters regarded by religious followers as “sacred or inherent to their dignity as human beings.”

This gives broad latitude to governments to decide what’s offensive. Countries such as Pakistan already have national blasphemy laws, but a global treaty would give them international cover to suppress minority religious groups with the excuse that these groups offend mainstream beliefs.”

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