Interfaith dialogue and human rights

Abdullah opening Madrid Interfaith Conference

Abdullah opening Madrid Interfaith Conference

Well, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia got his – a Global Interfaith Dailogue. It helped that he financed the meeting. The meeting was held last week in Madrid, Spain.  After all such a dialogue would have been impossible in Saudi Arabia – which does make me wonder: If Abdullah is so interested in dialogue and understanding why isn’t he doing something about the situation in his own country? It’s not as if he has no influence there!

In his recent appeal for such dialogue Abdullah rather gave the game away (see Interfaith dialogue to fight against human rights). He revealed the purpose would be safeguarding humanity from “the disintegration of the family and the rise of atheism in the world – a frightening phenomenon that all religions must confront and vanquish.”

Some commentators were naturally sceptical about this meeting, although it was welcomed by at least one New Zealand blog.

So what has this rather stage-managed Madrid Conference achieved?

The Madrid Declaration

The statement they issued, the ‘Madrid Declaration’ gives lip service to justice, tolerance, human values and combating terrorism. But is seems more preoccupied with claiming special rights for religion, and confronting “sexual promiscuity, family disintegration and other vices.”

The Declaration calls on governments and non-governmental organisations “to issue a document that stipulates respect for religions and their symbols, the prohibition of their denigration and the repudiation of those who commit such acts.” . It calls on “the UN General Assembly to support the results reached by this conference. It is strongly recommended to make use of these recommendations in enhancing dialogue among the followers of religions, civilisations and cultures through conducting a special UN session on dialogue.”

I think this reveals the true purpose of the Madrid Interfaith Conference. Preventing, or even outlawing, criticism of religion and limiting the human rights of the non-religious and the victims of persecution carried out in the name of religion.

And they want to use the UN to do this!

This isn’t new. Representatives of Islamic countries in the UN Human Rights Council have been campaigning against any advance of human rights in their own countries. They have manged to suppress discussion of issues involving Sharia law or criticism of religion. In fact they were able to achieve a ruling defining discussion of religion outside the scope of the council and restricted to only religious scholars. They also managed to instruct the UN’s Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression to no longer report on infringements of freedom of expression – but rather to report incidents of freedom of expression being used to criticise religion!

The Islamic countries have been able to achieve this situation by utilising their own votes and others, like China, Russia and Cuba, to achieve a majority on the Council. I guess there is a trade off – “I won’t criticise you if you don’t criticise me.” No doubt, some of the more democratic countries have succumbed to abstentions because of concerns about being seen to stand up against religious pressure.

All this is quite relevant to New Zealand. We are currently campaigning for a seat on the Human Rights Counci for the 2009 – 20012 term. If we manage to get this seat will we use it to resist such attacks on human rights?

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One response to “Interfaith dialogue and human rights

  1. Pingback: Universal Declaration of Human Rights « Open Parachute

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