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Muslims Drop Bid to Ban Blasphemy

Published: 17/10/2012 12:18:26 PM GMT
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ISTANBUL - Facing a strong Western opposition on ground of defending free speech, the world's largest Muslim body has dropped bid to obtain a ban on insults against religions and prophets. We could not convince them, Ekme (more)

ISTANBUL - Facing a strong Western opposition on ground of defending free speech, the world's largest Muslim body has dropped bid to obtain a ban on insults against religions and prophets.

"We could not convince them," Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), was quoted as saying by Reuters.

"The European countries don't vote with us, the United States doesn't vote with us."

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Muslims have campaigned for a UN resolution to ban blasphemy following repeated insults against Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) and Islamic sanctities on claims of free speech.

Last month, protests swept the Muslim world over an American-made film lampooning the prophet, leaving at least two dozens people dead.

Titled "Innocence of Muslims", the movie portrays the prophet and a womanizer, a philanderer and a religious fake.

A French magazine also published cartoons mocking the prophet, further angering Muslims.

Ihsanoglu told a conference in Istanbul at the weekend that the OIC had failed to win a ban at the United Nations and would not revive its long diplomatic campaign for one.

"I never said this and I know this will never happen," he said when asked about recent media reports that the OIC wanted to resume the campaign for a blasphemy ban.

Since 1999, the OIC has annually sponsored a defamation of religions resolution in the UN Human Rights Council.

The OIC has pressed 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.

"Strange Understanding"

Ihsanoglu said Western states had a "strange understanding" of free speech if it could be abused to hurt and insult others

He said the OIC respects freedom of expression but sees anti-Islam videos and cartoons as an abuse of this freedom that Western countries should sanction through their own blasphemy or hate crime laws.

Explaining his decision not to pursue a world ban, the OIC chief said the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and a non-binding 2011 UN General Assembly resolution against religious intolerance provided a sufficient basis for UN member states to take legal action.

"We have enough law and we need to implement these laws," he said.

Muslim politicians have stepped up their denunciations of Western free speech policies following the repeated insults against Prophet Muhammad.

"We cannot accept insults to Islam under the guise of freedom of thought," Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told the Istanbul conference.

"We Muslims want the same respect shown to Jewish culture, which we support," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.

But while editorialists and religious leaders have renewed calls for a worldwide blasphemy ban, few national leaders have actually ended their rhetorical reactions with that demand.

One who did at the United Nations last month was President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan, whose own national blasphemy law has come under increasing criticism at home and abroad as open to widespread abuse against minority Christians.Ihsanoglu, speaking at the conference on a panel with Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan, encouraged countries with blasphemy laws to apply against insults to Islam, and then quickly added: "not particularly the one in Pakistan".

Reproduced with permission from