Patrick Goodenough | International Editor | Thursday, December 20, 2007
Resolutions on the human rights situation in North Korea and Iran also passed, although dozens of countries -- including human rights violators Cuba, Sudan, Syria and Zimbabwe -- voted against the motions.
An annual resolution on "the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination" also passed by an overwhelming margin, with only the United States, Israel, and three small Pacific island nations voting "no." There were four abstentions.
The motion on defamation of religions has been a priority for the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) since 9/11. It took on new impetus following a Danish newspaper's publication in 2005 of cartoons satirizing Mohammed.
Introduced by Pakistan on behalf of the OIC, it passed on Tuesday by a 108-51 margin, with 25 abstentions. As with many of the other votes, the U.S. lined up with democracies in Europe, Asia and elsewhere against developing nations, including repressive regimes.
Although the resolution refers to defamation of "religions," Islam is the only religion named in the text, which also takes a swipe at counter-terrorism security measures.
It expresses alarm about "discrimination" and "laws that stigmatize groups of people belonging to certain religions and faiths under a variety of pretexts relating to security and illegal immigration."
Muslim minorities are subjected to "ethnic and religious profiling ... in the aftermath of the tragic events of 11 September 2001," it says.
The resolution decries "the negative projection of Islam in the media" and voices "deep concern that Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism."
OIC secretary-general Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu earlier this month addressed an international conference on "Islamophobia," held in Turkey, and told the gathering that freedom of expression was being used as a cover in the West to promote anti-Islam sentiment.
The OIC soon will release its first-ever annual report on "Islamophobia."
'Flawed and divisive'
On a number of the General Assembly resolutions passed Tuesday, the U.S. stood in the minority, including one dealing with practices that contribute to "fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance," and another on a report on preparations by the U.N.'s Human Rights Council for a major conference on racism, scheduled for 2009.
The international conference is intended to review progress achieved on a program of action adopted at an earlier racism conference, held in Durban, South Africa in 2001.
The Durban event was marred by controversy, with attempts spearheaded by Arab and Muslim states to equate Zionism with racism. The U.S. government sent a low-level delegation and then recalled it midway in protest against the attacks on Israel.
On Tuesday, only the U.S., Israel and the Marshall Islands voted against the resolution on preparations for the Durban review conference.
In an earlier explanation of vote, American envoy Grover Joseph Rees told member-states that although the U.S. supported the stated objectives of Durban gathering, "the outcomes of the conference were deeply flawed and divisive."
"The resolution now before us endorses that flawed outcome and is therefore itself seriously problematic," he said.
Rees said the Human Rights Council should be concentrating on the role for which it was created - "addressing human rights situations around the world, particularly emerging situations."
At the same time, countries should be focusing on implementing existing commitments, rather than on following-up "a flawed instrument" or creating of new ones.
Specifically, he said, states should be ratify and effectively implement the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Countries that have not ratified the 1965 treaty include Burma, North Korea, Malaysia, Angola, Singapore and a number of small Pacific island nations.
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