01 March 2017

Freedom of expression vs. defamation of religions: Protecting individuals or protecting religions?

In 2005 the Danish Muhammed cartoons sparked a heated international debate on the relationship between free speech and protection against religious discrimination. Whilst such tensions continue to be a source of conflict in the UN today, Marie Juul Petersen and Heini í Skorini look at what lies behind the actions of one of the key players in this debate, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

“Freedom of expression does not justify in any way whatsoever the defamation of religions.” The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), an intergovernmental umbrella organisation of 57 Muslim-majority states, was unequivocal in its condemnation of the Danish Muhammad cartoons, published in a press release a few months after the cartoons had been printed in the Danish newspaper Jyllandsposten in September 2005.

.... As such, this is not a sincere disagreement between those who argue for free speech restrictions as a tool against religious discrimination and hate speech, and those who believe that such restrictions will only lead to more discrimination and hate speech.

Instead, the OIC’s ambition is to outlaw a particular form of speech, which violates Islamic censorship norms, thus bolstering authoritarian states and religious orthodoxy rather than protecting individual freedom and rights. [London School of Economics] Read more