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U.N. rights council passes religious defamation resolution

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A U.N. body has passed a resolution condemning "defamation of religion" as a human rights violation.

The resolution, introduced by Pakistan on behalf of a group of Muslim nations in the U.N. Human Rights Council, passed Thursday by a vote of 23-11, with 13 absentions.

Opposition primarily came from Western nations, who say such a resolution would restrict freedom of speech. Proponents said they wanted to prevent such things as the defamation of Islam, as in the case of the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, which sparked angry Muslims protests in Europe three years ago.

"Defamation of religion is a serious affront to human dignity leading to a restriction on the freedom of their adherents and incitement to religious violence," the adopted text said. "Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism."

The World Jewish Congress condemned Thursday’s vote. "We see it as weakening the rights of individuals to express their views and criticize other religions, and, in the case of this specific resolution, particularly Islam,” WJC President Ronald Lauder said. "This resolution is an attempt to bring to the international body the blasphemy laws prevalent in some Muslim countries."

Language condemning defamation of religion recently was removed from a draft declaration for the Durban II conference on racism in an attempt to get the United States and other Western countries to attend the parley.

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