Chris Hitchens on the UN resolution on blasphemy

Don’t Say a Word

A U.N. resolution seeks to criminalize opinions that differ with the Islamic faith.

By Christopher Hitchens Slate Magazine

Posted Monday, March 2, 2009, at 2:07 PM ET
The Muslim religion makes unusually large claims for itself. All religions do this, of course, in that they claim to know and to be able to interpret the wishes of a supreme being. But Islam affirms itself as the last and final revelation of God’s word, the consummation of all the mere glimpses of the truth vouchsafed to all the foregoing faiths, available by way of the unimprovable, immaculate text of “the recitation,” or Quran.

If there sometimes seems to be something implicitly absolutist or even totalitarian in such a claim, it may result not from a fundamentalist reading of the holy book but from the religion itself. And it is the so-called mainstream Muslims, grouped in the Organization of the Islamic Conference, who are now demanding through the agency of the United Nations that Islam not only be allowed to make absolutist claims but that it also be officially shielded from any criticism of itself.

Though it is written tongue-in-cheek in the language of human rights and of opposition to discrimination, the nonbinding U.N. Resolution 62/154, on “Combating defamation of religions,” actually seeks to extend protection not to humans but to opinions and to ideas, granting only the latter immunity from being “offended.” The preamble is jam-packed with hypocrisies that are hardly even laughable, as in this delicious paragraph, stating that the U.N. General Assembly:

Underlining the importance of increasing contacts at all levels in order to deepen dialogue and reinforce understanding among different cultures, religions, beliefs and civilizations, and welcoming in this regard the Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the Ministerial Meeting on Human Rights and Cultural Diversity of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, held in Tehran on 3 and 4 September 2007.

Yes, I think we can see where we are going with that. (And I truly wish I had been able to attend that gathering and report more directly on its rich and varied and culturally diverse flavors, but I couldn’t get a visa.) The stipulations that follow this turgid preamble are even more tendentious and become more so as the resolution unfolds. For example, Paragraph 5 “expresses its deep concern that Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism,” while Paragraph 6 “[n]otes with deep concern the intensification of the campaign of defamation of religions and the ethnic and religious profiling of Muslim minorities in the aftermath of the tragic events of 11 September 2001.”

You see how the trick is pulled? In the same weeks that this resolution comes up for its annual renewal at the United Nations, its chief sponsor-government (Pakistan) makes an agreement with the local Taliban to close girls’ schools in the Swat Valley region (a mere 100 miles or so from the capital in Islamabad) and subject the inhabitants to Sharia law. This capitulation comes in direct response to a campaign of horrific violence and intimidation, including public beheadings. Yet the religion of those who carry out this campaign is not to be mentioned, lest it “associate” the faith with human rights violations or terrorism. In Paragraph 6, an obvious attempt is being made to confuse ethnicity with confessional allegiance. Indeed this insinuation (incidentally dismissing the faith-based criminality of 9/11 as merely “tragic”) is in fact essential to the entire scheme. If religion and race can be run together, then the condemnations that racism axiomatically attracts can be surreptitiously extended to religion, too. This is clumsy, but it works: The useless and meaningless term Islamophobia, now widely used as a bludgeon of moral blackmail, is testimony to its success.

Just to be clear, a phobia is an irrational and unconquerable fear or dislike. However, some of us can explain with relative calm and lucidity why we think “faith” is the most overrated of the virtues. (Don’t be calling us “phobic” unless you want us to start whining that we have been “offended.”) And this whole picture would be very much less muddied and confused if the state of Pakistan, say, did not make the absurd and many-times discredited assertion that religion can be the basis of a nationality. It is such crude amalgamations—is a Saudi or Pakistani being “profiled” because of his religion or his ethnicity?—that are responsible for any overlap between religion and race. It might also help if the Muslim hadith did not prescribe the death penalty for anyone trying to abandon Islam—one could then be surer who was a sincere believer and who was not, or (as with the veil or the chador in the case of female adherents) who was a volunteer and who was being coerced by her family.

Rather than attempt to put its own house in order or to confront such other grave questions as the mass murder of Shiite Muslims by Sunni Muslims (and vice versa), or the desecration of Muslim holy sites by Muslim gangsters, or the discrimination against Ahmadi Muslims by other Muslims, the U.N. resolution seeks to extend the whole area of denial from its existing homeland in the Islamic world into the heartland of post-Enlightenment democracy where it is still individuals who have rights, not religions. See where the language of Paragraph 10 of the resolution is taking us. Having briefly offered lip service to the rights of free expression, it goes on to say that “the exercise of these rights carries with it special duties and responsibilities and may therefore be subject to limitations as are provided for by law and are necessary for respect of the rights or reputations of others, protection of national security or of public order, public health or morals and respect for religions and beliefs.” The thought buried in this awful, wooden prose is as ugly as the language in which it is expressed: Watch what you say, because our declared intention is to criminalize opinions that differ with the one true faith. Let nobody say that they have not been warned.

About Eeyore

Canadian artist and counter-jihad and freedom of speech activist as well as devout Schrödinger's catholic

10 Replies to “Chris Hitchens on the UN resolution on blasphemy”

  1. This is a recipe for disaster, but not in the way the Islamists and their appeasers think. If it ever got to the stage where people were actually being arrested and imprisoned for criticising Islam, there would be real protests, real riots. Those Muslims who thought they made a big fuss about some cartoons in a Danish magazine were like children out in the playground during their morning break. If this really kicked off around the free world there really would be fun and games. Oh aye.

    The Frozen North

  2. If it ever got to the stage where people were actually being arrested and imprisoned? We already live in that stage. Many the world over sit in cells for the crime of blasphemy against Islam, many more live with the threat of death, live guarded and in hiding and many more still, have been murdered. More and more in the west are increasingly being censored, sued, criticized and threatened for exercising their fundamental right to open expression.

    Most free people understand fully that Islam, like any other religion is not above reproach; it has however become the only belief to have guaranteed itself through centuries of strategic craft, mass intimidation, psychological manipulation and sustained violence a seat outside the realm of critical and necessary criticism and moral accountability. Human rights are for people, not beliefs and Islam is certainly not a race or ethnic entity; I’m certain the majority of the victims who are Muslims of diverse ethnic backgrounds would agree.

  3. Firstly I need to say I agree with Grace on the big point. This is already happening in highly significant ways. People are already under sharia by proxy in any nation which has thought and speech crime laws, which is most ‘free nations’. Where I disagree with Niccolo65 is that people will actually do anything about it. At least en masse as you suggest. History shows that people hide their asses out of fear and often actually get with the program where it can advantage them. This happened in Germany clearly but also in Iran after the revolution as well as frankly, any historical example where totalitarianism took over. Yes there are some of us who are outraged enough to do what we can. I suppose many of us imagine romantically what we would be prepared to do to protect our freedoms. But this is death by a thousand cuts not an invading army of uniformed men on a battlefield. The distinction is critical. It means that we, who are outraged at the albeit rapid destruction of classical liberalism and individual freedoms have to be afraid of our own governments as much or more than the Islamic invaders. Please don’t get me wrong, it isnt that I do not share your sentiments and fantasies. Its that practically, we are in a pincer tactic. Everyone who is paid to hold the guns on one side, and the Islamists on the other.

  4. It should be proposed as a response to this absurdity that writers, authors, journalists, cartoonists and web contributors throughout the world use every opportunity to produce and publish material that is defiantly and truthfully critical of Islam and incidents carried out in the name of Islam. The police and courts of the world would soon fill up and any laws introduced to silence legitimate examination of Islam would quickly become unworkable and be seen to be as ridiculous as it truly is.

  5. Owain beautifully stated and factually correct. Sadly, its cowardice and collective sanctimony we can take to the bank. Hell if one tenth of marijuana smokers where to go to police stations and demand to be arrested tried and jailed it would be legal already. A much less important analogy I grant you, but perhaps appropriate. I have custom made Mohamed T shirts which I wear when its warm enough and I have them for sale for anyone willing to be daring enough. Very few are. You’re point is dead on the mark though. I hope you yourself will be publicly and openly contemptuous of this travesty of our rights and freedoms through all means necessary. I plan to be.

  6. Use my DONATE button Joel and donate $20.00 + 5$ shipping and send me an email with your address and so on, and ye shall have it in a week or so!

    Eeyore `@:*)>

  7. You may be right, people do tend to flock together like sheep and look to their shepherd to protect them. And if their shepherd gives them a whack with his stick now and again they just bleat a bit, and take it. I just get so bloody frustrated sometimes that, in the words of Ian Gillan, I feel like screaming. I take some encouragement from the recent protests about British workers not being able to get jobs which are mysteriously (and not so mysteriously) allocated to foreign workers. Whatever the rights and wrongs of that issue, maybe it tells us that if British citizens are pushed far enough, as you say Vlad if their own interests are put in jeopardy, then they will eventually show some backbone and say: Enough! So protests, and that sort of thing, yes. And I can see trouble between British people and immigrant communities sparking up. The great fear of our politicitians, namely trouble between different cultural groups in the UK, real hard core stuff, might actually come about because of the very measures those politicians are taking to try and prevent it. What do you think?

  8. And thinking about it, the difficulty is just what can one do about this “death by a thousand cuts”? Yes, we can start up blogs and write about it, and create and maintain an internet presence. I was so annoyed by the Geert Wilders fiasco that I did that, if for no other reason than to give myself somewhere to moan about it! I’ve also contacted Chris Huhne and criticised his use of John Stuart Mill in the article where he supported the ban on Wilders. Maybe writing to politicians more would have some kind of incremental effect, and at the very least make them realise that they can’t always get away with floating half-baked theories as they try to act in what they think is our own best interests. Grace, your point is well taken. I’ve spoken out before now on many a website about people like Robert Redeker, Michel Houllebecq and Oriana Fallaci being persecuted for speaking their minds on the subject of Islam. This didn’t all start up with Geert Wilders just the other week. I wonder where it will all end?

  9. well where it ends I’m not frighted of. Its how much damage we sustain till then and how much time it takes. If it wasn’t for government paid panels of politically correct advisers and committees who’s job it is to force us all to accommodate anything we don’t like in the name of tolerance and so on, this would never have been a problem. Muslims make more and more demands on our society because it works and that makes them like anyone else. When we have entire departments who’s jobs pensions and bonus’s are dependent on them finding ways of appeasing multi cultural sensitivities we are paying for our own destruction of course. So writing to government is actually a good idea. Educating yourselves and those around you is a great idea (I have specific ideas on that as well Ill get to in a post today) and demanding your basic rights as a citizen of a free and democratic state is a great idea. Accept no incremental losses. Mind you this has already happened. Smoking bans to language bans but the time to fight back is now. DO not let the fight be about what exceptions are made to freedom. Let the fight be about freedom or no.

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