A general view of the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva. Twitter photo
The United Nations Human Rights Council on Wednesday approved a disputed resolution on religious hatred in the wake of the burning of the Holy Quran in Sweden, prompting concern by Western states who say it challenges long-held practices in rights protection.
Major Western powers — the United States, European Union, and the United Kingdom — opposed the resolution, claiming it was against their views on human rights and freedom of expression.
Pakistan had moved the resolution titled "countering religious hatred constituting incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence" after a man in Sweden burned pages of the holy book, triggering a diplomatic backlash across the Muslim world.
The resolution, introduced by Pakistan on behalf of the 57-nation Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), calls for the UN rights chief to publish a report on religious hatred and for states to review their laws and plug gaps that may "impede the prevention and prosecution of acts and advocacy of religious hatred."
An Iraqi immigrant to Sweden burned a copy of the Holy Quran outside a Stockholm mosque last month, sparking outrage across the Muslim world and demands by Muslim states for action.
The vote's outcome marks a major defeat for Western countries at a time when the OIC has unprecedented clout in the council, the only body made up of governments to protect human rights worldwide.
Applause broke out in the cavernous chamber of the Human Rights Council after the 28-12 vote, with seven abstentions, on a measure that was backed by many developing countries in Africa, as well as China and India, and Middle Eastern countries.
Michele Taylor, the US Permanent Representative to the UN Human Rights Council, deplored the vote's outcome, saying the United States' concerns about the initiative "were not taken seriously."
"I believe with a little more time and more open discussion, we could have also found a way forward together on this resolution," she said.
In his address via video link to the body on Tuesday, Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari called upon the world to stand united against hatred, discrimination, intolerance, and promote mutual respect, understanding and tolerance.
Bilawal said unfortunately, deliberate desecration of the Holy Quran had continued under government sanction and impunity.
"We must see this incitement to hatred, discrimination and attempts to provoke violence. We must join hands to condemn it. We must isolate those who stoke hatred," he said.
"It is important to understand the deep hurt that at public and premeditated act of Quran's desecration causes to Muslims," he remarked.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the UAE commends this step, which is consistent with the UN Security Council's adoption of the resolution put forth by the UAE and the United Kingdom on "Tolerance and International Peace and Security" during the UAE’s presidency of the Council in June.
An Iraqi government statement said Baghdad had also recalled its charge d'affaires in Sweden, and Iraq's state news agency reported that Iraq had suspended the working permit of Sweden's Ericsson on Iraqi soil.
The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasised the importance of monitoring hate speech that negatively impact peace and security. Furthermore, the Ministry expressed its rejection of the use of freedom of expression as justification for such heinous acts.
Saudi Arabia also condemned the June Quran burning and called for Sweden "to stop all actions that directly contradict international efforts seeking to spread the values of tolerance, moderation and rejection of extremism."
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European foreign ministers and UN agencies called for a ceasefire, with alarm rising over the worsening humanitarian crisis and potential starvation in the territory.
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