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U.N. watchdog slams religious defamation resolution

NEW YORK (JTA) — A Geneva-based U.N. watchdog group blasted a draft resolution opposing "defamation of and contempt of religions."

In a statement Wednesday, U.N. Watch said the resolution, authored by Pakistan and expected to pass the U.N. Human Rights Council, would undermine moderate Muslim voices.

"It’s an Orwellian text that distorts the meaning of human rights, free speech, and religious freedom, and marks a giant step backwards for liberty and democracy worldwide," the group said.

The U.N.’s human rights body has previously adopted resolutions on the defamation of religions while mentioning only Islam as a target. Such measures have been opposed by the United States and Europe, which see defamation laws as pertaining to individuals and not ideas, such as religious creeds. Such resolutions, crtiics say, would have a chilling effect on free speech.

"The first to suffer will be moderate Muslims in the countries that are behind this resolution, like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan, who seek international legitimacy for state-sanctioned blasphemy laws that stifle religious freedom and outlaw conversions from Islam to other faiths," U.N. Watch said. "Next to suffer from this U.N.-sanctioned McCarthyism will be writers and journalists in the democratic West, with the resolution targeting the media for the ‘deliberate stereotyping of religions, their adherents and sacred persons.’

"Ultimately, it is the very notion of individual human rights at stake, because the sponsors of this resolution seek not to protect individuals from harm, but rather to shield a specific set of beliefs from any question, debate, or critical inquiry."

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