The following remarks were presented by B’nai B’rith International primary Geneva Representative Klaus Netter at the United Nations Human Rights Council on behalf of B’nai B’rith International and the Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations. The remarks were delivered during a discussion of the protection of human rights.
United Nations Human Rights Council - 13th Session
Agenda Item 3: Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights
Statement on behalf of B'nai B'rith International and the Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations
Read by Klaus Netter, March 15, 2010
On behalf of a community that profoundly values faith and the right to hold and practice it free of threat or abuse, I rise to appeal against repeated efforts to exploit the Human Rights Council in the name of preventing "defamation of religion" in order to legitimize violations of the universal human right of freedom of expression.
Behind concern over "defamation of religion" lies a narrow perspective on insults or blasphemy, and, what is more, a desire to curb legitimate discussion of a strain of violent fanaticism within an otherwise honorable and humane faith. It is worth noting that some sponsors of ongoing initiatives on "defamation of religion" are themselves not immune to the infringement of democratic freedoms generally and lack of respect for religious minorities in particular.
Indeed, those championing the "defamation of religion" issue would be well-advised to internalize two lessons of human history: One, that it is precisely the minorities, not the majority, whose rights and sensibilities must be guarded most vigilantly; Two, that open, honest debate enriches inter-faith understanding and that freedom, rather than coercion, underpins the flourishing of faith. Finally, let them look inward by practicing the fundamental teachings: "Love your fellow as yourself “and "Do not onto others what you would not want done onto you."
Thank you, Mr. President.