The Obama administration's collaboration with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in combating "Islamophobia" may soon "result in the delegitimization of freedom of expression as a human right," Hudson Institute scholar Nina Shea writes at National Review Online.
In March, the administration beat back efforts by the OIC (formerly known as the Organization of the Islamic Conference) to pass a resolution in the United Nations Human Rights Council calling for criminal penalties against "defamation of religions." For more than a decade, the OIC had attempted to win passage of the measure.
But the OIC, sensing defeat, opted not to try to push the measure through the council. The decision followed murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan's minister of minorities, who opposed his own nation's blasphemy laws. Bhatti's murder followed the slaying of Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer, who defended a mother of five who had been sentenced to death for blasphemy.
At the time, Shea characterized the outcome in the human rights council as "a small but essential victory for freedom." But the win was short-lived. In July, the administration decided to launch an anti-Islamophobia initiative in conjunction with the OIC. On July 15 - a few days after the Norway massacre - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton co-chaired an OIC session in Istanbul dealing with "religious intolerance."
At that conference, she unveiled an initiative calling on states to "to counter offensive expression through education, interfaith dialogue, and public debate…but not to criminalize speech unless there is an incitement to imminent violence." That echoes the First Amendment standard set by the U.S. Supreme Court in this case.
But the OIC is taking full advantage of Washington's opening to air grievances about "Islamophobia" by reasserting its demands for global blasphemy laws. In an Aug. 17 op-ed, OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu pointed to examples like the Muhammad cartoon controversy in writing that Islamophobia is "increasingly finding place (sic) in the agenda of ultra-right-wing and political parties and civil societies in the West."
Ambassador Zamir Akram, Pakistan's permanent representative on behalf of the OIC to the Human Rights Council, vowed that, in its struggle, the OIC would not compromise on "anything against the Quran, anything against the prophet."
Shea warns that the Obama Administration is giving the OIC an opportunity to "re-litigate" blasphemy laws in a forum where "freedom of expression will be put on trial and inevitably condemned by most forum participants as, itself, a human rights violation."
Read the article here.