OIC-IPHRC strongly condemns Charlie Hebdo’s republication of blasphemous caricatures of Prophet Muhammad

September 03, 2020

Saudi Gazette report

The Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is appalled by the recent reprinting of sacrilegious caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by the French magazine Charlie Hebdo and squarely condemns this targeted manifestation of hatred and absurd stereotyping, which is grossly violative of international human rights law.

A similar exercise in 2015 in Garland, Texas, USA, was rightly criticized by The New York Times as “nothing to do with freedom of expression but an exercise in bigotry and hatred”.

The Commission expressed deep anguish over manifest stereotyping and ridiculing of the most revered personality of Islam, which is profoundly loved and respected by billions of Muslims all over the world.

The Commission is also saddened by the irresponsible statements from important state officials in support of so called “freedom to insult” or expressing solidarity with the magazine to publish blasphemous material, which has no link with the right to freedom of expression.

While constructive criticism is a legitimate part of freedom of expression, sheer disrespect, insults, stereotyping and defamation squarely fall into the category of incitement to hatred, discrimination and violence, a punishable crime under international human rights law.

Article 19 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Articles 19 & 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) clearly stipulate that this is not an ‘absolute’ right, rather its exercise is subject to ‘special duties and corresponding responsibilities’ based on ‘avoidance of harm to others’ to ensure societal cohesion, including the duty of the State to prohibit, by law, “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence”.

The Commission reminded that the entire Muslim world condemned the violent attack on the Charlie Hebdo office in 2015, in which besides other innocent people, a Muslim police officer laid his life while defending the premises.

The international community overwhelmingly acknowledged that the attacks had nothing to do with Islam or any other religion.

The Commission stressed that in present difficult times of ongoing pandemic, when the world needs solidarity, tolerance, respect for cultural and religious diversity and enhanced dialogue at all levels, such expressions of manifest hatred would only strengthen the hands of extremists on both sides of cultural divide further fueling the racial and religious hatred, discrimination and violence. An outcome that squarely goes against the coveted ideal of multiculturalism.

The Commission, while urging Muslims to exercise restraint and exhaust available domestic and international legal remedies to counter the hate expression, has called upon media to: (a) abide by the standards of responsible journalism; (b) avoid stereotyping and incitement to hatred against peaceful Muslim communities; and (c) promote respect for diversity and religious sensitivities of different segments of society vital for building inclusive, peaceful and pluralistic societies.

IPHRC also called upon all states to fully and effectively implement the Action Plan of universally approved UN Human Rights Council Res. 16/18, to combat religious intolerance and build consensus on the threshold of freedom of expression where it converts into incitement to hatred, discrimination or violence requiring its criminalization as provided in Article 20 of the ICCPR.

September 03, 2020
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