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BHA: UN Human Rights Council against Free Speech

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has expressed its deep disappointment at the resolution urging global prohibition of the public 'defamation of religion' adopted at the UN Human Rights Council on Friday.

The resolution was pushed through by Islamic countries, with support from Cuba, China, Russia and a number of African nations, despite strong opposition from European and a number of other countries.

While stating that countries should 'take resolute action to prohibit the dissemination of racist and xenophobic ideas and material aimed at any religion or its followers that constitute incitement and religious hatred, hostility, or violence', the only religion mentioned explicitly is Islam.

Hanne Stinson, Chief Executive of the BHA, commented, 'Incitement to violence or to hatred is always deplorable, and we should certainly also try to avoid gratuitous insults. But in a free society we must be allowed to criticise religious doctrines and practices, even if that offends people who consider it to be defamation of their religion or religious beliefs. Ideas of all sorts must be open to censure or to approval if freedom of speech and conscience is to be a reality.'

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