Daily Times – Site Edition Thursday, June 19, 2008
<http://www.dailytim es.com.pk/ images/shim. jpg>


Muslim countries win concession regarding religious debates

* UN body says only religious scholars should be allowed to discuss
matters of faith

GENEVA: Muslim countries have won a battle to prevent Islam from being
criticised during debates by the UN Human Rights Council. Religions deserve
special protection because any debate about faith is bound to be “very
complex, very sensitive and very intense”, council President Doru-Romulus
Costea said Wednesday.

Scholars: Only religious scholars should be allowed to discuss matters of
faith, he told journalists in Geneva.

While Costea’s ban applies to all religions, it was prompted by Muslim
countries complaining about references to Islam.

Costea issued his “presidential ruling” on Monday during the eighth meeting
of the council’s 47 members, which do not include the United States. The
ruling will not affect findings by the council’s experts, just its chamber

On Monday Egypt, Pakistan and Iran angrily protested attempts by a humanist
group to link Islam to human rights abuses such as female genital mutilation
and so-called honour killing of women. The interventions sparked a heated
debate which threatened to sour the mood of the meeting. The council’s
resolutions carry no legal weight but are intended to throw a spotlight on
governments that abuse their citizens.

“This council is not prepared to discuss religious matters in depth,
consequently we should not do it,” Costea ruled after an emergency break to
calm the situation.


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