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Sunday, April 14, 2024

UNHRC divided on resolution addressing Quran burning incident

UNHRC currently facing a contentious debate on a draft resolution condemning religious hatred, western world concered about free speech.

The UN Human Rights Council is currently facing a contentious debate on a draft resolution condemning religious hatred, particularly in light of recent incidents involving the desecration of the Holy Quran. The resolution, spearheaded by Pakistan and supported by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation countries, calls for stronger laws to prevent acts and advocacy of religious hatred. However, Western nations, concerned about the encroachment on free speech, have expressed reservations and are pushing for revised wording to reach a consensus.

Recent Incidents Fuel Diplomatic Backlash

The urgent debate at the UN Human Rights Council was triggered by the burning of a Quran outside Stockholm’s main mosque. This incident has sparked a diplomatic backlash across the Muslim world, leading to Pakistan’s proposal of the draft resolution condemning all forms of religious hatred.

Read More: Hundreds gather in Stockholm to protest Quran burnings

Pakistan’s Draft Resolution and Accountability

Pakistan’s resolution emphasizes the need to hold responsible those who commit premeditated acts of desecration of the Holy Quran. It also calls for the adoption of laws to address, prevent, and prosecute acts and advocacy of religious hatred that incite discrimination, hostility, or violence. Additionally, the resolution seeks to identify gaps in countries’ laws pertaining to religious hatred.

Concerns Over Freedom of Expression

Some Western nations on the Human Rights Council express concern that the current draft resolution may curtail freedom of expression. While they condemn the desecration of the Quran, they argue that freedom of speech, even if offensive, should be protected. The European Union countries, the United States, and Britain have reluctantly accepted the need for a vote, with the intention to vote against the draft resolution.

Striking a Balance

France’s ambassador highlights that human rights protect individuals and not religious symbols or beliefs. Defining what is sacred should not be the prerogative of the United Nations or states. The delicate balance between protecting freedom of expression and preventing hate speech must be maintained. Limitations on free speech should be an exception, ensuring that fundamental principles are upheld.

UN Rights Chief’s Perspective

UN rights chief Volker Turk acknowledges the recent incidents of Quran burning as manufactured acts of contempt and inflamed anger. He stresses the rise of hate speech, fueled by social media, and the importance of acting with respect for others. While condemning inflammatory acts against religions, he emphasizes that restrictions on free speech should remain exceptions rather than the norm.

Read More: Urgent UN meeting on Quran burning in Sweden

The ongoing debate at the UN Human Rights Council highlights the complexity of addressing religious hatred while safeguarding freedom of expression. As nations grapple with the repercussions of recent incidents, finding a consensus remains a challenge. Balancing the protection of individuals’ rights with respect for religious beliefs and symbols is crucial. It is imperative to foster dialogue, understanding, and mutual respect to promote a harmonious coexistence in a diverse and interconnected world. The final vote on the resolution will determine the Council’s stance on these pressing issues.