UN Human Rights Council approves Pakistan-led resolution on religious hatred

The United Nations Headquarters building in the Manhattan area of ​​New York is photographed on August 15, 2014 from a window with the United Nations logo in the foreground.  - Reuters
The United Nations Headquarters building in the Manhattan area of ​​New York is photographed on August 15, 2014 from a window with the United Nations logo in the foreground. – Reuters
  • Major Western powers oppose the resolution.
  • India, China, 26 other states supported the resolution.
  • The resolution condemns all forms of religious hatred.

The 47-member UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday approved a Pakistan-backed resolution on religious hatred in the wake of the Holy Quran burning incident in Sweden.

The major Western powers – the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom – opposed the resolution, claiming that it went against their views on human rights and freedom of expression.

Pakistan moved the resolution titled “Combating religious hatred promoting discrimination, enmity or violence” after a man in Sweden burned pages of the holy book, triggering a diplomatic reaction across the Muslim world.

At least 28 countries including China, India, South Africa and Ukraine voted in favour, 12 voted against and seven countries abstained.

Besides the UK and the US, Belgium, Costa Rica, Czechia, Finland, France, Germany, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monte Negro and Romania voted against the resolution.

Pakistan’s resolution condemns all manifestations of religious hatred, including “public and premeditated acts of desecration of the Holy Quran”, and stresses the need to hold those responsible accountable.

It urges states to adopt legislation to “address, prevent and prosecute acts of religious hatred and advocacy that incite discrimination, enmity or violence”.

He also wants UN rights chief Volker Turk to identify loopholes in the countries’ laws in light of the Koran burning debate.

‘Isolate the haters’

In his address via video link to the body on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari called on the world to unite against hatred, discrimination, intolerance and promote mutual respect, understanding and tolerance.

Bilawal said that unfortunately, the deliberate desecration of the Holy Quran continues with government sanction and impunity.

“We must look at attempts to incite hatred, discrimination and violence. We must join hands to condemn it. We must isolate those who spread hatred,” he said.

He remarked, “It is important to understand how deeply Muslims have been hurt by this public and premeditated act of desecration of the Quran.”

Describing the desecration of the Holy Quran as an attack on the Muslim faith, FM Bilawal said that the call in the draft text presented before the Council for Prevention and Accountability was appropriate and necessary.

The minister said that hate speech and free speech should be separated, as free speech is as inevitable as hate speech.

“There is not a single Muslim country on this planet that allows the desecration of holy books of other religions,” he said, adding that such an act is unimaginable for any Muslim.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said: “These provocations deeply insult Muslims around the world. You cannot hide behind freedom of expression.”

On 28 June in Stockholm, 37-year-old Salvan Momica, who had fled to Sweden from Iraq several years earlier, attacked a Muslim holy book and set several pages on fire.

His actions came to the fore when Muslims around the world started celebrating the religious festival of Eid ul Adha.

The Swedish government condemned the Quran burning as “Islamophobic”, but added that Sweden has a “constitutionally protected right to freedom of assembly, expression and demonstration”.

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