An Atheist public policy group today urged President Obama to speak out against a non-binding United Nations resolution penalizing "defamation of religion" and to encourage moderate Islamic societies to guarantee freedom of conscience and expression.
The measure is widely seen as an effort to insulate Islamic regimes from ideological criticism, and permit theocratic states to curtail rights for women, journalists and political dissidents. The matter is scheduled for further discussion at next month's World Conference Against Racism to be held in Geneva.
"We urge President Obama and his administration to speak out unequivocally and firmly against any effort to curtail free expression, and provide special treatment against criticism of any and all religions," said Ed Buckner, President of American Atheists.
"The main effect of such a policy would be to endanger civil liberties, and, in fact, exacerbate religious differences. And any attempt to make this a binding resolution deserves nothing but contempt and opposition from Americans," he continued.
Buckner also urged the Obama administration to not boycott the April World Conference as Germany , Israel, Italy and Canada have done. This just surrenders the ideological battle field to extremists. Engagement, not boycott, is called for.
Dave Silverman, Communications Director for American Atheists noted that the driving force behind the resolution is Pakistan, which currently has fifty of its citizens in prison for the crime of "blasphemy." Some of these victims of government-clerical sanction are Muslims, Atheists and Christians. Mr. Silverman added that the legal penalty for blasphemy is death."
"That's ironic because Pakistan -- one of the countries possessing nuclear weapons -- is under siege by Muslim extremists aligned with al Qaeda and the Taliban. Pakistan should be promoting freedom of expression and secularism as an antidote to religious fanaticism."
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