Wednesday 26 March 2008

Say No to Human Rights: the U.N. Versus Human Rights

"The United Nations Versus Human Rights" - petition on LICRA's (Ligue Internationale contre le Racisme et l'Antisémitisme) website. To sign the petition go here.

"The United Nations Versus Human Rights

Will 2008 be the year when the United Nations celebrates the 60th anniversary of the universal declaration of human rights and simultaneously destroys its own principles? There is, indeed, cause for great concern because the institution has lost its way in recent years, becoming a caricature of itself.

In 2001, the U.N. sponsored the World Conference on Racism, held in Durban, South Africa, the city where Gandhi began his law career. The phrases "Death to America" and "Death to Israel" were chanted in the name of people’s rights. In the name of cultural relativism, all remained silent in the face of discrimination and violence against women.

Alarmed by the serious problems this highlighted within its Commission on Human Rights, in June 2006, the United Nations launched a new Human Rights Council, intended to correct these profoundly disturbing trends. Today, the picture is particularly grim. As the Durban II conference-- scheduled for 2009--takes shape, it is sanctioning those same trends. What is worse, if new official standards are developed and carved into the stone of a new and very unusual Declaration of Human Rights, that will mark the death of universal rights.

Through its internal processes, the coalitions and alliances that are forming, the speeches being delivered, the texts being negotiated and the terminology being used are destroying freedom of expression, legitimizing the oppression of women and systematically stigmatizing Western democracies. The HRC has become a machine of ideological warfare conducted against its own founding principles. Unknown to the major media, day after day, session after session, resolution after resolution, a political rhetoric is being forged in order to legitimize the acts to follow and the violence of tomorrow.

A "triple alliance"--composed of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, represented by Pakistan; the Non-Aligned Movement, in which Cuba, Venezuela and Iran play a central role; and China, with Russia’s cynical consent--is working to launch a supposedly "multicultural" revolution. Doudou Diène, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, has thus stated that criticizing the wearing of the burka constitutes a racist attack, that secularism is rooted in a slaveholding, colonialist culture and that the French law prohibiting students from wearing religious symbols at school constitutes anti-Muslim racism, renamed "Western Islamophobia."

Confusion of thought reaches new heights when any criticism of religion is denounced as racism. The U.N. is sanctioning a radical threat to freedom of thought. By likening any criticism of these abuses on the part of those speaking in the name of Islam to racism--supposedly a product of neo-colonialist thinking--the spokespeople for this new alliance are tightening the noose they have placed around the neck of their own people. They are undermining the foundations of a civility that Europe achieved, at great cost, following the wars of religion.

In September 2007, Louise Arbour, High Commissioner for Human Rights, participated in a conference in Tehran dedicated to "human rights and cultural diversity." Wearing the veil, as required by law in the Islamic Republic, the High Commissioner was a passive witness to the utterance of the principles to come, which may be summarized as follows: "an offense against religious values is regarded as racist." Still worse, on the day following her visit, twenty-one Iranians, including several minors, were executed in public. President Ahmadinejad renewed his call, in her presence, for the destruction of Israel, a member state of the United Nations created by that same organization. Questioned about her silence, the High Commissioner justified her passivity as a sign of respect for Iranian law to which, as an attorney, she felt herself bound and out of a concern "not to offend her hosts." "A man’s home is his castle," said Dr. Goebbels. He used that opportunistic argument when speaking before the League of Nations in 1933 to reject all criticism from an impotent international institution, but one whose principles were, at least, respected, unlike those of the United Nations today.

Great political crimes have always needed words to legitimize themselves. Speech foreshadows the move to action. Examples abound, from Mein Kampf to the Mille Collines radio station, from Stalin to Pol Pot, confirming the need to exterminate the enemy of the people in the name of the race, the emancipation of the toiling masses and a supposedly divine order. Totalitarian ideologies have replaced religions. Their crimes and unmet promises of a "radiant future" have invited God back into politics. The greatest terrorist crime in history was committed in the name of God on September 11, 2001, just days after the Durban conference ended.

Confronted by that strategy, the democracies--concerned primarily about their balance of trade--demonstrate an extraordinary passivity. What does the fate of the Tibetan people matter, compared to exports to China? What is the price of freedom for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the former Dutch legislator, threatened with death after her friend, filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, was killed in 2002, accused of blasphemy for his film, "Submission"? The examples of Taslima Nasreen, Salman Rushdie, Robert Redeker and Mohamed Sifaoui prove that Islamist fundamentalism imposes its law through terror. How many Algerians, how many women in North Africa, the Near East, Turkey and Pakistan have already paid with their lives for refusing to submit to religious obscurantism?

If by some misfortune, the U.N. were to enshrine such criteria, if blasphemy were to be considered racism, if the right to criticize religion were made illegal, if religious law were inscribed in international standards, that would constitute a regression of disastrous proportions and a radical perversion of our tradition of struggle against racism, which has taken place, and can continue to take place, only under absolute freedom of conscience. The December 2007 General Assembly has already begun to approve texts that condemn certain forms of expression considered as defamatory of Islam. The issue is clear and it is global: we are dealing with the defense of individual freedoms. Unless the democracies rally, following the example of Canada, which has just announced that it will not participate in Durban II, noting that the event could be "marked by statements of intolerance and anti-Semitism," and no longer abstain on or vote for resolutions contrary to the universal ideal of 1948, then religious obscurantism and its parade of political crimes will triumph--under the good auspices of the United Nations. And when words of hate turn into action, no one will be able to say, "We didn’t know.""

Elisabeth BADINTER, Adrien BARROT, Patrice BILLAUD, Pascal BRUCKNER, Jean-Claude
BUHRER, Chala CHAFIQ, Georges CHARPAK, Christian CHARRIERE-BOURNAZEL, Bernard DEBRE, Chahdortt DJAVANN, Jacques DUGOWSON, Frédéric ENCEL, Alain FINKIELKRAUT, Elisabeth de FONTENAY, Patrick GAUBERT, Claude GOASGUEN, Thierry JONQUET, Liliane KANDEL, Patrick KESSEL, Catherine KINTZLER, Claude LANZMANN, Michel LAVAL, Barbara LEFEVBRE, Corinne LEPAGE, Malka MARCOVICH, Albert MEMMI, Jean-Philippe MOINET, Jean-Claude PECKER, Philippe SCHMIDT, Alain SEKSIG, Mohamed SIFAOUI, Antoine SPIRE, Pierre-André TAGUIEFF, Jacques TARNERO, Michèle TRIBALAT, Michèle VIANES, Elie WIESEL, Michel ZAOUI, etc.

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