UNITED NATIONS: Algeria demanded new efforts yesterday to limit freedom of expression to prevent denigrating attacks on Islam, appealing to the United Nations to take a lead as nations engaged in new debate on the tensions between free speech and religious tolerance.
In an address to the General Assembly, Algeria’s foreign minister Mourad Medelci called for global action under the auspices of the United Nations to respond to violent demonstrations provoked by a US-produced video that mocks Muslims and the Prophet Mohammad.
While Medelci didn’t offer precise details of how he believed the UN could intervene, his call follows similar demands at the General Assembly from scores of leaders in the Muslim world who want new laws to ban insults against Islam.
On the sidelines of the annual forum, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary general of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, told the AP yesterday that the deaths of two dozen people in violent protests against the anti-Islam film underscored the need for new legislation.
Malaysia’s foreign minister Anifah Aman told the General Assembly that the creators of the anti-Islam film — an amateurish, privately produced US video that mocked Mohammad’s image — and those behind the publication of lewd caricatures of the prophet by French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo had shown “blatant malicious intent” towards Muslims.
“When we discriminate against gender, it is called sexism. When African Americans are criticised and vilified, it is called racism. When the same is done to the Jews, people call it Anti-Semitism. But why is it when Muslims are stigmatised and defamed, it is defended as ‘freedom of expression’?” Aman told the General Assembly.
Aman he believed it was “time to dwell deeper into the heart of the problem and the real debate — the relationship
between freedom of expression and social responsibilities, duties and obligations.”
Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari had called in his speech on Tuesday to the General Assembly for action led by the UN to address a “widening rift” between the Muslim world and the West.
Italy and Jordan said on Thursday at a meeting on the sidelines of the forum that they were already working on an initiative to promote religious tolerance, which had begun before the anti-Islam video went public. The drive to push better understanding will involve a conference of experts and academics in the coming months.