Sunday, August 21, 2011

UNHRC Resolution 16/18

-- the OIC, the UN and Apostaphobia

By Elizabeth Kendal

The following post adapts and expands upon an address I presented at Christian Faith & Freedom's July 2011 "Free to Believe" conference in Canberra, Australia.

Thesis: While it has been hailed in the West as a victory for free speech, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference's (OIC's) new Resolution 16/18, "Combating intolerance . . .", is even more dangerous than resolution 2005/3, "Combating Defamation of Religion". Far from being an OIC back-down or a breakthrough for liberty, the change in focus from defamation to incitement is not only totally consistent with OIC strategy since early 2009, but it actually advances the OIC's primary goal: the criminalisation of criticism of Islam.

NOTE: on 28 June 2011, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference changed its name to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

2,858 words


On 12 April 2005, United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC), meeting for its 61st session in Geneva, passed HR Resolution 2005/3, "Combating Defamation of Religions": 31 for, 16 against and 5 abstentions.

The resolution was presented by Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) under Agenda Item 6 pertaining to "racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and all forms of discrimination".

Islam on-line (IOL) reported it this way: "The United Nations Commission on Human Rights adopted on Tuesday, April 12, a resolution calling for combating defamation campaigns against Islam and Muslims in the West." ("UN calls for Combating Anti-Islam Campaigns", 12 April 2005)

The passing of the resolution heralded a fundamental shift in international Human Rights. Religion (specifically Islam) was to be awarded rights normally reserved for human beings.

Resolution 2005/3 expressed alarm at post-9/11 discrimination of Muslims in non-Muslim countries and noted with concern that "defamation of religions is among the causes of social disharmony and leads to violations of human rights". The resolution noted with deep concern that Islam and Muslims were coming under attack in human rights forums and that Muslim minorities were increasingly the victims of stereotyping and profiling.

It expressed "deep concern that Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights abuses, violence and terrorism", while labelling organisation that defame Islam as "extremist". States were urged to "take all possible measures to promote respect for all religions and their value systems". (emphasis mine)

Finally, the resolution "Requests the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance to continue to examine the situation of Muslims and Arab peoples in various parts of the world . . . and to report on his findings to the Commission at its sixty-second session [April 2006], and to make recommendations to improve their situation . . ."

The language had been carefully chosen, for "defamation", as it is normally defined, is "communication to third parties of false statements about a person that injure the reputation of or deter others from associating with that person." (Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law)

From the very outset, the OIC's agenda was to have criticism of Islam deemed defamatory so that it might be criminalised.

Once the resolution was passed, the OIC had a 12 month window -- from April 2005 to April 2006 (next sitting) -- in which to ensure that the Special Rapporteur would reach the conclusion sought by the OIC: that "defamation" of Islam needed to be banned.


Sept 2005: Jyllands Posten publishes Muhammad cartoons (competition). NOTE: no riots.

October 2005: Muhammad cartoons reprinted in Cairo during Ramadan. NOTE: no riots.

Dec 2005: OIC Summit, Dakar, Senegal.
OIC formulates its 10 Year Plan which includes a 4-point item entitled "Combating Islamophobia".

Item VII. Combating Islamophobia

1. Emphasize the responsibility of the international community, including all governments, to ensure respect for all religions and combat their defamation.

2. Affirm the need to counter Islamophobia, through the establishment of an observatory at the OIC General Secretariat to monitor all forms of Islamophobia, issue an annual report thereon, and ensure cooperation with the relevant Governmental and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in order to counter Islamophobia.

3. Endeavor to have the United Nations adopt an international resolution to counter Islamophobia, and call upon all States to enact laws to counter it, including deterrent punishments.

4. Initiate a structured and sustained dialogue in order to project the true values of Islam and empower Muslim countries to help in the war against extremism and terrorism.

As soon as the Dec 05 Dakar Summit concluded, the Arab League got to work. The result: the Cartoon Intifada of February-March 2006 which left a trail of death and destruction from the Levant through South Asia and Africa; with large and disturbing street protests in numerous major cities, particularly London.


In March 2006, the UN General Assembly voted to replace the thoroughly discredited UN HR Commission with a smaller and supposedly improved UN HR Council. Actually the new UNHRC has all the same problems as the old UNHRC. While the progress of Resolution 2005/3, Combating Defamation of Religion, was delayed for a year, it mattered not, for through the Cartoon Intifada the OIC had established a precedent: "defamation" of Islam leads to death and destruction.

In March 2007, the UN HR Council passed Resolution 2005/3, Combating Defamation of Religion: 24 for, 14 against, 9 abstentions.

See: UN Human Rights Council: Protecting Religion
By Elizabeth Kendal for WEA RLC, 12 April 2007

Subsequently, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Doudou Diène (a Senegalese Muslim), presented his report on 21 August 2007.

According to Special Rapporteur Doudou Diène, "defamation" of Islam arises out of "baseless Islamophobia" which expresses itself as "hatred of Muslims" which in turn gives rise to "extremism". His conclusion: those who "defame" Islam must be held accountable for Islamic extremism.

However, according to Diène, anti-Semitism is not religious or racial but political and Israel's fault. Likewise, he claimed, the Christianophobia that is evident in "South America, Africa and Asia" (NOTE: the Middle East was not on his list) is caused by the aggressive and unethical proselytising of evangelical Christians. Diène charged that Christians had "exploited freedom of expression" to defame religions, including Voodoo and other traditional faiths. He claimed that by defaming Hinduism, Christians had created the environment that favoured the emergence of militant Hindutva. Thus unlike Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and Christianaphobia were not baseless, but were valid responses from threatened peoples.

The Special Rapporteur concluded with this recommendation: "In the light of the polarised and confrontational readings of these articles ["international instruments, and in particular articles 18, 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights" (ICCPR)] the UNHRC should "promote a more profound reflection on their interpretation". Diène recommended that the UNHRC "consider the possibility of adopting complementary standards on the interrelations between freedom of expression, freedom of religion and non-discrimination, and in particular by drafting a general comment on article 20".

Article 20 of the ICCPR states:
1. Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.
2. Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law. (emphasis mine)

I commented at the time, that any effort to include "defamation" of religion (especially when defamation is essentially nothing more than criticism) in the same category as "incitement" would serve totalitarian forces from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe that seek to make religious liberty an issue not of fundamental, universal human rights, but an issue of harmony, social cohesion and national security.

Furthermore I proposed that the very heart of the issue was not "defamation" of Islam or "baseless" Islamophobia, but the fact that the dictators of Islam are now as ever consumed with and driven by "apostaphobia". This touched such a raw nerve with the dictators of Islam that it won a citation in the OIC's 1st Observatory of Islamophobia.

I proposed that apostaphobia be defined as a well-founded fear of loss of authority through loss of adherents, which manifests primarily as uncompromising repression and denial of fundamental liberties, by violent and subversive means.

I also proposed that the UNHRC add apostaphobia to its vocabulary, and confront apostaphobia by upholding the international human rights covenants that protect the fundamental, universal right of individuals to religious liberty, not seek to reinterpret and amend those covenants to protect religions and apostaphobic religious dictators from the threat posed to them by religious liberty.

See: UNHRC: Watershed Days
By Elizabeth Kendal for WEA RLC, 18 September 2007

The fact is: on account of the new openness available through satellite, internet and mobile phone technologies, disillusioned Muslims are rejecting and leaving Islam in unprecedented numbers. Consequently, the apostaphobia of the dictators of Islam is rising.

See: Religious Liberty Trends 2007-2008 (Apostasy & Apostaphobia)
By Elizabeth Kendal for WEA RLC, 15 Feb 2008

Apostasy, and the baptism of Madgi Allam
By Elizabeth Kendal for WEA RLC, 4 April 2008

[NOTE: in June 2011, World Council of Churches, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the World Evangelical Alliance appeased the apostaphobic dictators of religion and advanced their cause by publishing complementary standards for Christian witness.]


In December 2007, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 2005/3, Combating Defamation of Religion: 108 for, 51 against, with 25 abstentions. (NOTE: 10 Year Plan, Item VII, point 3 part (a) -- achieved!)

In March 2008, the OIC presented its 1st Observatory Report of Islamophobia to the OIC’s 11th session in Dakar. The report, which drew heavily on the UN Special Rapporteur's August 2007 report, proposed that the world's view of Islam be corrected and that "deterrent punishments" for "defamation" be established. (NOTE: as per 10 Year Plan, Item VII, point 3 part (b))

The Observatory Report of Islamophobia asserted that, in order to have peace, the correct (i.e. OIC-approved) version of history and of Islam must be understood, promoted and accepted; clearly anything else is "baseless" Islamophobia or inciteful "defamation" of Islam, responsible for the violent, destructive and retaliatory (as distinct from immature, irrational and criminal) Muslim-rioting in the world today. It also claimed that Islamophobia exists in part because there is no legal instrument to combat it, therefore a "binding legal instrument" must be created "to fight the menace of Islamophobia".

See: OIC: Eliminating "defamation" of Islam.
By Elizabeth Kendal for WEA RLC, 25 March 2008


Support for Resolution 2005/3, Combating Defamation of Religion, declined during 2008 as the free world started to realise the degree to which freedom was being threatened.

March 2008. Resolution 2005/3 passes in the UNHRC: 21 for (down from 24 in 2007); 10 opposed; 14 abstain.

November 2008. Resolution 2005/3 passes in the UN GA: 85 states for (down from 108 in 2007), 50 opposed; 42 abstentions.

But then, failing to read the signs, the OIC started arrogantly overplaying its hand. In November 2008, at the UN GA 63rd session, several OIC members asserted that Islamophobia is a "new form of racism" that is "incited" by "defamation of religion" which is a "misuse" of the right to freedom of speech.

See: The OIC & the UN: Islamophobia and "defamation of religion"
By Elizabeth Kendal for WEA RLC, 14 Nov 2008

Then, at the UN World Conference against Racism (Durban II) in April 2009, the OIC launched its new strategy to have defamation recast as incitement as per the ICCPR Article 20.2: "Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law."

The OIC maintained that Islamophobia -- "a new form of racism" -- must be eliminated in order to preserve peace and prevent a Muslim "holocaust".

See: The OIC & the UN: defamation of religions as incitement
By Elizabeth Kendal for WEA RLC, 21 Nov 2008

April 2010. Resolution 2005/3, Combating Defamation of Religion, passes in the UNHRC, but by the slimmest margin in the history of the resolution: 20 for; 17 opposed; 6 abstentions. The abstainers were becoming opposers.


In March 2011, after discussions with the US held in wake of the blasphemy assassinations of the governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, and Minorities MP, Shabbaz Bhatti , Pakistan presented the UNHRC with a new resolution.

24 March 2011. The UNHRC passes HR Resolution 16/18: "Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence, and violence against persons based on religion or belief."

The resolution was presented by Pakistan for OIC under Agenda item 9 pertaining to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related form of intolerance, follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

The resolution was immediately hailed as a "huge achievement" -- a breakthrough for human rights.

Excerpts: UNHRC Resolution 16/18 (emphasis mine)

The Human Rights Council,

(1) Expresses deep concern at the continued serious instances of derogatory stereotyping, negative profiling and stigmatization of persons based on their religion or beliefs, as well as programmes and agendas pursued by extremist organizations and groups aimed at creating and perpetuating negative stereotypes about religious groups . . .

(3) Condemns any advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence [NOTE: exact wording of ICCPR Article 20.2], whether it involves the use of print, audio-visual of electronic media or any other means . . .

(5) . . . call[s] on States to take the following actions to foster a domestic environment of religious tolerance, peace and respect, by:
(e) Speaking out against intolerance, including advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence [NOTE: exact wording of ICCPR Article 20.2];
(g) Understanding the need to combat denigration and negative religious stereotyping of persons, as well as incitement to religious hatred . . .

(6) Calls upon all States:
(d) To make a strong effort to counter religious profiling, which is understood to be the invidious use of religion as a criterion in conducting questionings, searches and other law enforcement investigative procedures;


Presumably this resolution would permit a critic to assert that "fundamentalist Islam is inherently violent", while making it unacceptable for an employer or security officer to suggest than an Islamic fundamentalist should not be employed at this school or that airport, or that they should be watched or investigated or searched -- for that would be negative profiling based on religion.

Meanwhile, though the language of "defamation" has been eradicated, a critical / offensive comment such as "fundamentalist Islam is inherently violent", would doubtless be viewed as incitement. In fact anything that could have been deemed "defamation" under Resolution 2005/3 will doubtless be deemed incitement under Resolution 16/18.

This shift in focus from "defamation" to incitement -- something the OIC has been pursuing since April 2009 -- is hugely significant as the ICCPR specifically mandates that incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence be prohibited by law (ICCPR Article 20.2).


In line with Item VII, point 4 of the OIC's 10 year plan, Article 9 of Resolution 16/18 "Calls for strengthened international efforts to foster a global dialogue for the promotion of a culture of tolerance and peace at all levels, based on respect for human rights and diversity of religions and beliefs . . ."

The first meeting pursuant of Resolution 16/18 took place in Istanbul on 15 July 2011 and was co-chaired by OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"The test would lie in the implementation", said Ihsanoglu, adding that there was a delicate balance between freedom of expression and incendiary speech. "We continue to be particularly disturbed by attitudes of certain individuals or groups exploiting the freedom of expression to incite hatred by demonizing purposefully the religions and their followers."

See: OIC, West pledge to combat intolerance
Arab News, 16 July 2011

ArabNews reports: "Speaking of the United States, Clinton said: 'We have seen in the United States how the incendiary actions of just a very few people can create wide ripples of intolerance, so we are focused on promoting interfaith education and collaboration, enforcing anti-discrimination laws, protecting the rights of all people to worship as they choose, and to use some old-fashioned techniques of peer pressure and shaming so that people don't feel that they have the support to do what we abhor.'"

The next meeting to discuss the implementation of Resolution 16/18 will held in Washington in the coming months.

The International Islamic News Agency (IINA) reports (1 Aug): "According to informed sources in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the two sides, in addition to other European parties, will hold a number of specialized meetings of experts in law and religion in order to finalize the legal aspect on how to better implement the UN resolution.

"The sources said that the upcoming meetings aim at developing a legal basis for the UN Human Rights Council's resolution which help in enacting domestic laws for the countries involved in the issue, as well as formulating international laws preventing inciting hatred resulting from the continued defamation of religions."

IINA quoted OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu being quick to exploit Anders Behring Breivik's 22 July 2011 Oslo massacre, a tragedy Ihsanoglu cited as evidence of the danger posed by institutionalised Islamophobia. ("OIC/ Islamophobia: OIC Observatory warned wince 2009 against the growth of the extreme right in Europe, Washington plans to host a meeting on resolution opposing defamation of religions." IINA, 1 Aug 2011. NOTE: article has been removed.))

And so, while it is being hailed in the West as a victory for free speech, Resolution 16/18, "Combating intolerance . . .", is even more dangerous than resolution 2005/3, "Combating Defamation of Religion". It is in no way an OIC back-down or a breakthrough for liberty. Rather, the change in focus from defamation to incitement is not only totally consistent with OIC strategy since early 2009, but it actually advances the OIC's primary goal: the criminalisation of criticism of Islam.