Muslim leaders were in unison at the United Nations this week arguing that the West was hiding behind its defense of freedom of speech and ignoring cultural sensitivities in the aftermath of anti-Islam slurs that have raised fears of a widening East-West cultural divide.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said it was time to put an end to the protection of Islamophobia masquerading as the freedom to speak freely.
"Unfortunately, Islamophobia has also become a new form of racism like anti-Semitism. It can no longer be tolerated under the guise of freedom of expression. Freedom does not mean anarchy," he told the 193-nation UN General Assembly on Friday.
Egypt's newly elected Islamist president, Mohamed Mursi, voiced similar sentiments in his speech on Wednesday.
"Egypt respects freedom of expression, freedom of expression that is not used to incite hatred against anyone," he said. "We expect from others, as they expect from us, that they respect our cultural specifics and religious references, and not impose concepts or cultures that are unacceptable to us."
Mursi was one of the first leaders to be democratically elected after Arab Spring r evolutions that led to changes in the governments of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen last year.
Western states that backed the uprisings have urged these countries to quickly foster democratic reforms and adhere stringently to human rights principles and basic freedoms.
They fear a more austere version of Islam could hijack the protest movements. Most Western speakers at the United Nation defended freedom of speech, but shied away from calls by Muslim leaders for an international ban on blasphemy.
While repeating his condemnations of the video, US President Barack Obama staunchly defended free speech, riling some of those leaders.
"The strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech - the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy," Obama said in a 30-minute speech dominated by this theme.
Speaking after Obama, President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan, where more than a dozen people were killed in protests against the anti-Islam film, demanded insults to religion be criminalised.
"The international community must not become silent observers and should criminalise such acts that destroy the peace of the world and endanger world security by misusing freedom of expression," he said.
Highlighting the anger of some, about 150 protesters demanded "justice" and chanted "there is no god but Allah" outside the UN building on Thursday. One placard read: "Blaspheming my Prophet must be made a crime at the UN"
Foreign ministers from the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation met on Friday. The film topped the agenda.
"This incident demonstrates the serious consequences of abusing the principle of freedom of expression on one side and the freedom of demonstration on the other side," OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu told reporters.
Human Rights First and Muslim Public Affairs Council, two US-based advocacy groups, warned of the risks of regulating such freedoms.
"Countless incidents show that when governments or religious movements seek to punish offences in the name of combating religious bigotry, violence then ensues and real violations of human rights are perpetrated against targeted individuals," they said in a joint statement.
The 47-member UN Human Rights Council, dominated by developing states, has passed non-binding resolutions against defamation of religion for over a decade. Similar ones were endorsed in the UN General Assembly.
European countries, the United States and several Latin American nations in the council opposed the resolutions, arguing that while individual people have human rights, religions do not, and that existing UN pacts - if enforced - were sufficient to curb incitement to hatred and violence.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle attempted to dampen talk of a clash of civilisations on Thursday.
"Some would have us believe that the burning embassy buildings are proof of a clash of civilisations," Westerwelle said in his UN address. "We must not allow ourselves to be deluded by such arguments. This is not a clash of civilisations. It is a clash within civilisations. It is also a struggle for the soul of the movement for change in the Arab world."
Nonsense, drawing cartoons and making videos of Muhammad is not even remotely similar to anti-Semtism.
Hilarious hypocrisy. They don't want us imposing concepts or cultures that are unacceptable to us, yet they want to impose their concepts and cultures on us. It is to laugh.
LOL! That's the funniest one of the lot. The world stoops to Pakistan's level of morals and ethics. HA!
That speaks volumes as to the dangers of religious indoctrination.
How would you word such a law that deprives an individual of the their right to express his/her beliefs that doesn't have the potential to be used against any and everyone?
Who would be governer over such power to tell one group to shut up while allowing another group free will to say what they want.
All that we would be doing is to create yet another reason for civil unrest. Another reason to fight.
Until the earge to fight is stiffled, any excuse to fight will be good enough to fight if fighting is what we want to do. And there will always be someone wanting to fight excuse or not.
If you don't stand up for the things you don't like, when they come for the things you do like, you've already lost. - Neil Gaiman
Freedom of speech should never be tinkered with. It is one of our most basic freedoms. Anyone who supports this call for an anti blasphemy law doesn't understand that freedom.
by Mike Russo5 years ago
Should Americans who have put our national security in jeopardy be prosecuted for their actions? This is from the Associated Press:"CAIRO - Egypt's general prosecutor has issued arrest warrants for seven Egyptian...
by Make Money8 years ago
Obama's speech to the Muslim world from Cairo, Egypt sounds like a clear change to US foreign policy regarding the Middle East. The whole 55 minute speech is up on YouTube.President Obama Speaks to the Muslim...
by edmondpogi6 years ago
Is it ever right for Governments to restrict freedom of speech?
by irachx5 months ago
Do we really have freedom of speech?
by Daniel J. Neumann6 years ago
When should freedom of speech be regulated?We all know the "You can't yell fire in a movie-theater when there's no fire" example. Talk about censorship.
by Kenneth Dantzler2 years ago
People are saying that their amendment right are taken away, especially the freedom of speech. Freedom of speech in America is definitely safeguarded by the First Amendment to the United states of America Constitution...
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