A resolution urging nations to do more to combat religious hate in the wake of Quran burnings in Europe was overwhelmingly passed by the U.N.’s highest human rights committee, despite opposition from Western nations that worry that stricter government measures may restrict freedom of speech.
On Wednesday, the Human Rights Council’s vast hall erupted in cheers following the 28-12 vote, with seven abstentions, on a resolution introduced by Pakistan and Palestine and supported by numerous developing nations in Africa, as well as China and India and Middle Eastern nations.
The resolution, which was passed in response to recent Quran burnings in several regions of Europe, urges nations to take action to “prevent and prosecute acts and advocacy of religious hatred that constitute incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence.”
Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Khalil Hashmi, claimed following the decision that the proposal “does not seek to curtail the right to free speech,” but rather attempts to establish a “prudent balance” between it and “special duties and responsibilities.
Hashmi stated that some of the hostility in the room stemmed from their refusal to denounce the open profanation of the Holy Quran or any other holy text. “It was the least that the council could have done, but they lack the political, legal, and moral courage to condemn this act.”
However, the U.S. ambassador to the council, Michele Taylor, had earlier stated that the country “strongly condemns the acts that have precipitated today’s discussion, including desecration of the Holy Quran on June 28” in reference to an incident that had sparked outrage in some Muslim communities last month in Sweden.
Taylor stated following the decision that she was “truly heartbroken” that the council was unable to come to an agreement “in condemning what we all agree are deplorable acts of anti-Muslim hatred while also respecting freedom of expression.”