UNITED NATIONS - Acknowledging the importance of freedom of expression, Muslim foreign ministers from the world's largest Muslim group called on Friday, September 28, for laws against incitement to "religious hatred" as they condemned the US-made anti-Islam film.
Ministers from the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) condemned "intolerance, discrimination, profiling, negative stereotyping, stigmatization, religious hatred and violence against Muslims, as well as denigration of their religion" caused by the release of the film and cartoons of Islam's Prophet Mohammed, they said in a statement cited by Agence France Presse (AFP).
"These Islamophobic acts stand in violation of the freedom of religion and belief, guaranteed by international human rights instruments, and have deeply offended" Muslims around the world, the statement added.
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OIC foreign ministers met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, which opened in New York on Tuesday, September 25.
The meeting comes amid Muslim fury over an American-made film insulting Prophet Muhammad.
Produced by an American-Israeli real estate developer, the film portrays the Prophet as a fool, philanderer and a religious fake.
The film triggered protests in several countries around the world, which left scores of people dead, including the US ambassador in Libya.
Adding insult into injury, a French magazine published cartoons mocking the prophet, further angering Muslims.
The anti-prophet insults have triggered calls for a UN resolution criminalizing blasphemy.
Since 1999, the OIC has annually sponsored a defamation of religions resolution in the UN Human Rights Council.
The OIC wants the UN to adopt a binding international covenant against the defamation of religions.
In 2009, the UN Council adopted a non-binding resolution, proposed by Pakistan on behalf of the OIC, condemning religious defamation and calling for respect of all faiths.
Yet in March 2011, the OIC approved, under heavy pressure from the US, to set aside its 12-year campaign to have religions protected from defamation.
The OIC decision was followed by an approval from the UN Human Rights Council on a broader plan on religious tolerance.
Ministers from the 57-nation organization urged governments worldwide to take all measures to prevent incitement against religions.
Ministers called on governments around the world "to take all appropriate measures, including necessary legislation against these acts that lead to incitement to hatred, discrimination and violence" based on religion, the statement said.
"We acknowledge the importance of freedom of expression, but at the same time stress the need to ensure that this freedom should be exercised by all with responsibility and in accordance with the relevant international human rights laws."
The ministers also called for "global awareness about the dangerous implications of incitement to religious hatred, discrimination and violence."
US President Barack Obama condemned the film but made an impassioned plea for freedom of speech at the UN summit.
Several Muslim ministers have called for international legislation to prevent religious attacks.
"The alarming increase in the number of acts that defame religions and thereby people who adhere to such religions, have now serious implications for international peace and security," Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.
The "time has come to establish denigration of all religions and their followers as a hate crime. We have to take swift measures," he added.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net