U.N. Calls for Combating 'Defamation' of Islam

Geneva, Switzerland - The United Nations Commission on Human Rights called on Tuesday for combating defamation of religions, especially Islam, and condemned discrimination against Muslims in the West's war on terrorism.

The 53-member state forum adopted a resolution, presented by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), deploring the intensification of a "campaign of defamation" against Muslims following the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.

Western countries, including the United States and European Union (EU), voted against the text, calling it unbalanced for failing to address problems suffered by other religious groups.

The OIC resolution was adopted by a vote of 31 countries in favor and 16 against, with five abstentions and one delegation absent, Indonesia's ambassador Makarim Wibisono, who chairs the annual six-week session, announced after the public vote.

"Stereotyping of any religion as propagating violence or its association with terrorism constitutes defamation of religion. It unfortunately breeds a culture of hatred, disharmony and discrimination," Pakistan's envoy, Masood Khan, said in a speech on behalf of the OIC, which links 57 Islamic nations.

There was "a growing trend of defamation of Islam and discrimination faced by Muslims and the people of Arab descent in many parts of the world," he said, citing attacks on places of worship and religious symbols.

In a recent report, the U.N. special investigator on racism, Doudou Diene, cited examples including "Islamophobic violence" after the murder last November of Dutch film director Theo Van Gogh, and an "alarming number of expulsions of imams" in Europe.

Delegations from Cuba and China, which has been accused by rights activists of repressing its own Muslim Uighur minority, were among the countries to take the floor during the debate to back the OIC resolution.

"Islam has been the subject of very deep campaign of defamation. All you have to do is look at the films which have come out of Hollywood the last few years," said Cuba's delegate, Rodolfo Reyes Rodriguez.

But the United States, Canada and the EU rejected the resolution as focusing almost exclusively on Islam.

"This resolution is incomplete inasmuch as it fails to address the situation of all religions," Leonard Leo, a member of the U.S. delegation, said in a speech.

The Netherlands, speaking for the EU, said religious intolerance was a "matter of grave concern" within the bloc, adding that it regretted the EU had been unable to agree on a "more balanced" joint text with the OIC.

"Discrimination based on religion or belief is not confined to any one religion nor to any one part of the world," said Dutch ambassador Ian de Jong.