Debate in Geneva on Religion and Freedom of Expression in the Human Rights Council

In the context of the 9th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, EFD Visiting Fellow Dr. Phares was invited by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), the Association for World Education and the Center for Inquiry to speak on September, 17, 2008 in Geneva about Religion and Freedom of Expression in the Human Rights Council.

Is Freedom of Expression under threat in the Human Rights Council itself? Do religions need protection from defamation?  How can the Council deal with challenges to human rights based on religion?

 Among the speakers:

-      Tarek Fatah, Founder and former chair of the Muslim Canadian Congress
-      Naser Khader, Founder, Democratic Muslims of Denmark, Member of the Danish Parliament, leader of the Liberal Alliance
-      Austin Dacey, Center for Inquiry Main Representative, UN New York

Dr Phares presentation was titled "The OIC's Ideological agenda for Durban II: a modern-day Inquisition." Phares, a professor of Religion and World Politics and the author of War of Ideas argued that under international law, groups of regimes or Governments cannot alter and reverse universal human rights under any pretext. He added that the so-called "Defamation declaration" advanced by the core-regimes in the OIC is a modern day equivalent of inquisition. "Under such so-called defamation laws, Muslims who promote reforms and democratization will be accused of deviating from religion and non-Muslim minorities who raise issues about their basic rights would be accused of Islamophobia." Phares warned that if this agenda is pushed as is at the forthcoming Durban II conference, there will be a serious crisis threatening the credibility of all UN sponsored Human rights activities and institutions.