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A recent UN anti-racism conference has decided that defaming Islam is a human rights violation. Babette Francis reports. for Human Rights, as “a celebration of tolerance and dignity for all”. Not quite all, because the conference commenced by handing a global megaphone to keynote speaker, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who spewed forth anti-Israel vitriol with a call to wipe out the “Zionist, Jewish state” in the name of combating racism. Muslim-dominated nations attending the UN’s five-day World Conference Against Racism (WCAR), held in Geneva, April 20-24, pursued an unrelenting anti-Jewish agenda.




The ostensible aim of the meeting — also known as the Durban Review Conference or “Durban II” — was to assess “the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action [DDPA adopted in Durban, South Africa, in 2001] by all stakeholders at the national, regional and international levels, including the assessment of contemporary manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance”.

But many countries such as the United States, Canada, Germany, Australia and Israel, anticipating that Durban II would be yet another forum for anti-Israel histrionics, decided not to attend. Ahmedinejad’s outburst caused EU countries which did attend to walk out during his speech.

Although the conference organisers assured the media and anyone willing to listen that Durban II would not be a reprise of the anti-Israeli Durban I, the very first paragraph of the “Outcome Document of the Durban Review Conference” (which runs to 143 paragraphs in 20 pages) begins with a “Reaffirmation of the DDPA from Durban I”.

As Durban I was a platform for anti-Israeli propaganda and singled out “the plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation”, Durban II was hardly better, especially with the opening lowlight being Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial and his “Israel is racist, Zionism is racism” rhetoric.

Israel is a Jewish state, but Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt and other countries declare themselves in their constitutions to be Muslim or Arab states — so why is Israel singled out for being racist? Its Arab minority have far more rights — including representation in the Knesset — than Jews or Christians have in Iran or Saudi Arabia.

The problem with UN conferences on racism lies with one of the key organisers, the UN’s Human Rights Council, run by human rights abusers. The chair of the HRC is Libya and vice-chairs are occupied by Iran and Cuba.

The HRC is influenced by the 56- member Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), whose preoccupation is the adoption of an anti-blasphemy resolution seeking to criminalise all criticism of Islam and suppress free speech under the guise of combating “Islamophobia”.

The Outcome Document of the Durban Review Conference contains many platitudinous paragraphs about eliminating racism, discrimination and xenophobia based on gender, religion, ethnicity and economic status; but the final product reveals a variety of troubling provisions

There are a dozen references to cultural diversity, cultural identity and cultural respect which would threaten universal human rights standards. For example, the resolutions call for incorporating a “gender perspective” in eliminating discrimination; but will “cultural respect” for Saudi Arabia have priority over the gender discrimination that women suffer in that country? The HRC’s double standards have drawn condemnation from many leading Christian figures.

US writer, broadcaster and president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr Albert Mohler, recently said: “Now, the Islamic states want to make the ‘defamation of religion’ a human rights violation. The language of the resolution is expressed in diplomatic fog, but the intent is nonetheless clear. … “Again and again, Islam is referenced as the only religion singled out for protection against defamation.”


Comments deplored


Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s permanent observer at the Office of the UN and Specialised Institutions in Geneva, who attended Durban II, deplored the “Israel is the most cruel and repressive state” comments made by Iranian President Ahmadinejad. He said: “The conference, as an international forum for the exercise of the right to freedom of expression, has unfortunately been used to utter extreme and offensive political positions the Holy See deplores and rejects: they do not contribute to dialogue, they provoke unacceptable conflicts, and in no way can be approved or shared.” Archbishop Tomasi cited manifestations of intolerance, such as religious persecution and eugenics, and told the UN conference that Christians are jailed or killed because of their beliefs. Such Christians and other victims of discrimination in Burma, Tibet, Darfur and Zimbabwe, not to mention women and minorities in Islamic countries, will have to wait a while for “human rights”. Durban II was an opportunity lost.

— Babette Francis is co-ordinator of Endeavour Forum Inc., an NGO with special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations.


Member Organisation, World Council for Life and Family

NGO in Special Consultative Status with ECOSOC of the UN