Saturday, 4 April 2009

UN-justified attack on my human rights

UNWIELDY, certainly. Ineffective, often. But always, surely, on the side of the good guys. In fact, the United Nations ARE the good guys. Aren't they?
The UN was set up right after the Second World War to ensure such a thing never happened again.
Its 192 member countries include every generally recognised independent state in the world apart from (bizarrely perhaps) the Vatican.
You might think a club of which everybody is a member (well, OK, everyone except the Pope) might be a pretty useless club.
And certainly the UN has never succeeded in its glorious stated aim of stopping war. In its 64-year history so far there has not been a single day when someone hasn’t been at war somewhere.
Indeed, the country where the UN has its HQ (the USA, of course) has been involved in more wars in that time than most – though never on its own soil.
But still, there has not (yet) been another "big one", another World War. For which the UN may perhaps take some of the credit. (And let's conveniently forget here, as most people usually do, that the two Congo wars of 1996-2003 involved eight countries and killed 5.4million people. That's pretty big, and despite the official end six years ago the fighting and dying are still going on.)
The UN, though, has things other than war on its agenda too.
There’s the Economic and Social Council, the International Court of Justice, the World Health Organisation, the UN Environment Programme and the Food Programme. Big, important stuff.
And then there’s the UN Human Rights Council. That's surely pretty important too.
Of course, the countries that torture their citizens - and sometimes each others’ - that deny women equal legal status to men, that carry out legal murder by injection, electric chair or stoning, are all UN members.
But at least the Human Rights Council is working on that. Isn't it?
Actually, what the HRC was working on last week was freedom of speech. Not guaranteeing it. Not even encouraging it. Trying to stop it. As it does routinely, year after year.
The council's 47 elected member states voted by 23 to 11, with 13 abstentions, to urge all countries in the world to pass laws making "defamation of religion" illegal.
If they got their way, I might never again be allowed to assert my non-belief in God.
It could be a serious problem for astronomers, particle physicists, geneticists, geologists and others whose discoveries conflict with old Bible tales.
Followed to its logical conclusion, it could plunge the world into a 1984, Big Brother scenario. If the truth conflicts with the official fantasy, it's the fantasy that's right – the truth is not just wrong, but illegal. This column would certainly be illegal.
Of course, I'm not expecting such a law to be passed. Not all over the world. Not here in Britain (though some of the Blair government's madder excesses weren't that far from it).
But the very fact that such a resolution was passed by a UN council gives dangerous international "authority" to those madcap governments that do want to squash all opposition to their particular religious lunacies.
Condemnation of the resolution has come from many quarters including the World Jewish Congress and the Seventh-Day Adventist Church – neither of them noted for their opposition to religion. Still more honourable are the protests lodged by the American Islamic Congress and the Muslim Council of Canada.
Honourable because the motion was put by Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. And while on the surface it sets out to protect all religions from criticism, the wording goes on to make it quite clear what they really mean.
It says: "Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism."
Yes, it frequently is – often wrongly. But not always wrongly. And this is a case in point.
Because what we have here is the Human Rights Council voting to try to take away my human rights. On behalf of the world's most powerful Muslims.

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