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Copyright (c) 2010 Brigham Young University Law Review
Brigham Young University Law Review

NOTE AND COMMENT: Defamation of Religions: A Vague and Overbroad Theory that Threatens Basic Human Rights


Brigham Young University Law Review

2010 B.Y.U.L. Rev. 635


Allison G. Belnap*


I. Introduction
The Organization of the Islamic Conference (the "OIC") created its "defamation of religions" theory to specifically protect and empower Islam. Rather than preventing defamation of any religion, as its name suggests, this theory actually supports Islamic countries' rights to enact and enforce blasphemy, defamation, and incitement statutes that persecute and punish non-adherents. Since 1999, the OIC has successfully drafted and ensured the passage of multiple U.N. resolutions encouraging member States to enact legislation prohibiting the defamation of religions. Though the general language has broadened over time to suggest protection for multiple religions, each of these resolutions has mentioned only one religion specifically - Islam.

Though the motives behind the defamation of religions theory likely include an honest desire to prevent discriminatory treatment suffered by Muslims worldwide, the current doctrine is so broad that it poses a serious threat to the human right to freedom of expression. Thus, the U.N. should not encourage promulgation of defamation of religions legislation, but should instead work within the guidelines of established international law principles to encourage States to enforce religious rights, limit discrimination, and create an atmosphere of mutual respect. To accomplish this, the U.N. should encourage a narrower notion of incitement that balances regulation and even criminalization of speech or expression with robust discussion that sometimes shocks and offends.

Suggestions that the international legal community merely adopt the U.S. First Amendment standards in related areas are overtly imperialistic and ignore the ...
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