So said a representative of Pakistan at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 13, 2008.
In a follow up to IHEU’s written statement to the UN Human Rights Council describing Islamic efforts to undermine the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Roy Brown, IHEU’s main representative at the UN in Geneva, prepared an oral statement for Council debate on 13 March but was prevented from giving it in full because of repeated objections from two Islamic delegations.
IHEU “ambushed” at Human Rights Council
Continuing interruptions have a negative effect on any statement because the audience quickly becomes absorbed by the interruptions, and both speaker and audience can quickly lose track of the speaker’s argument. Worse, the speaker is often reduced to simply stating his main conclusion without being able to provide his supporting evidence. In this case, without the benefit of the quotations from the Cairo Declaration, a well-reasoned argument was reduced to sounding like mere polemics. Objections also act as a warning to others against raising sensitive issues and have a chilling effect on those who might wish to cover similar ground. No doubt all of these effects are well understood by the Islamic delegates.
More worrying still are the implications for rational discussion of Islamic interpretations of human rights. Any criticism, indeed, any discussion of Shari’ah law at the Human Rights Council is now considered an “insult to Islam”. The problem is the extremely close relationship between Islam as a religion, and Sharia which, although a system of law, holds a central position in that faith. The continuing efforts by the Islamic states at the Human Rights Council, in the UN General Assembly and elsewhere to silence “defamation” of religion can be seen in this context. Should these efforts succeed, any criticism of the Shari’ah, of its entrenched inequalities or brutal punishments will be condemned as defamation of Islam. Rational discussion – indeed any mention of the Shari’ah – will have become impossible.
For the time being, then, the Islamic States can continue to pretend that Islamic declarations of human rights are compatible with international standards. But that claim should seen for what it is.