Absurd and dangerous: EU and OIC say we must respect all religious prophets

by Michael Nugent on September 24, 2012

David IckeLast week the European Union, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Arab League and the Commission of the African Union released an absurd and dangerous joint statement, expressing ‘the importance of respecting all prophets’, and ‘strongly committing to take further measures’ to work for ‘full respect of religion’.

The joint statement was inspired by the violent reactions to a recent film about Islam, but it focuses mostly on expressing respect for all religions and all prophets (but not for atheism), it includes only a passing reference to freedom of expression, and it waits until its final paragraphs before getting around to condemning the attacks on embassies during which people were killed.

The joint statement claims to be a message of peace and tolerance, but it is actually a message of exclusion and intolerance of atheism and reason, with its narrow and undemocratic focus on ‘what joins us together across regions and religions’ being endorsed by the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs.

By doing this, the joint statement violates the European Union’s obligation to respect equally the status under national law of both religious associations and philosophical and non-confessional organisations, as expressed in Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

The European Union is also working to promote ‘full respect of religion’ along with Islamic States that routinely use apostasy and blasphemy laws to persecute innocent people. The European Union should focus on having these people released from prison and on having blasphemy laws repealed wherever they exist.

Respect for all religions and all prophets

The joint statement begins by saying that ‘we share a profound respect for all religions,’ and absurdly adds that ‘we believe in the importance of respecting all prophets, regardless of which religion they belong to.’

So the European Union is expressing ‘profound respect’ not only for the major world religions (which, as an aside, profoundly contradict each other), but also for Scientology, Raelism, Paganism, Witchcraft, Voodoo, and the South Pacific tribe that worships Prince Philip.

But, despite the obligations under Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, there is no mention of any respect, profound or otherwise, for atheism or for any philosophical or non-confessional world-views.

And why is the European Union explicitly expressing the importance of respecting prophets, as distinct from respecting the right of citizens to believe in prophets?

Prophets make the unsubstantiated claim, or have it claimed on their behalf, that they are receiving divine messages as intermediaries between the creator of the universe and some human beings on planet Earth. Saying that it is important to respect all prophets is an attack on both atheism and reason.

And ‘respecting all prophets, regardless of which religion they belong to’ includes not only the Abrahamic prophets such as Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, but also the convicted con-man and first Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, the Raelist prophet Claude Vorilhon, David Koresh of the Branch Davidians in Waco, and the former Coventry City goalkeeper turned snooker commentator turned Green Party spokesperson turned Son of God David Icke.

Why is the European Union endorsing this absurd statement?

Strong commitment to take further measures

The joint statement concludes by saying that ‘We reiterate our strong commitment to take further measures and to work for an international consensus on tolerance and full respect of religion, including on the basis of UN Human Rights Council resolution 16/18.’

Since 1999 the Islamic States have being proposing motions at the UN seeking to make defamation of religion a crime. This would give religions a legal protection that up to then only applied to the rights of individual people.

By 2008, they were finally starting to lose this battle, and they shifted to a new strategy. Using wording drawn from the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, they started to reframe defamation of religion as incitement to Islamophobia.

In March 2011, this resulted in the UN Human Rights Council adopting resolution 16/18, proposed by Pakistan. This is the resolution referred to in the current joint statement.

Its title is ‘Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence, and violence against persons based on religion or belief.’

This at least seemed to shift the focus from religion to protecting people, though the Islamic States still blur this line with their talk of Islamophobia.

But now the European Union is committing itself to work with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to bring about ‘full respect of religion’.

What exactly is meant by the phrase ‘full respect of religion’? And if enforcing it only ‘includes’ the basis of this UN resolution, what else does it include?

Why is the European Union advancing this dangerous notion?

Islamic States persecute people with blasphemy laws

And why is the European Union working with the Islamic States to endorse phrases like ‘full respect of religion’, when they know that Islamic States routinely use blasphemy and apostasy laws to persecute innocent people?

Here are five of countless examples of this ongoing persecution, based on laws that are often enforced without due process to settle personal grudges.

In Indonesia, Alexander Aan, a 31-year-old atheist civil servant, has been jailed for two and a half years for sharing material on Facebook about the Prophet Mohammad and writing that god does not exist.

In Pakistan, Asia Noreen Bibi, a 41-year-old Christian mother, has spent three years in prison and faces execution by hanging after a farcical blasphemy conviction. And last year two Pakistani politicians who questioned her sentence were murdered.

Also in Pakistan, Rimsha Masih, a 14-year-old Christian girl, was recently arrested for allegedly burning pages from the Quran. An islamic cleric was later arrested for planting the Quran pages as evidence.

In Saudi Arabia, Hamza Kashgari, a 23-year-old Muslim poet, has been jailed for blasphemy for publishing tweets saying that he would shake Muhammad’s hand as an equal if he met him.

And in Iran, Youcef Nadarkhani, a 35-year-old Christian Pastor, has just recently been released after spending nearly three years in prison facing execution on charges of apostasy and evangelising Muslims.

Instead of encouraging the Islamic States to retrench further into demanding ‘full respect of religion’, the European Union should focus on having people like this released from prison and on having blasphemy laws repealed wherever they exist.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ophelia Benson September 24, 2012 at 7:34 pm

Horrors. What are they thinking?! Don’t the relevant people in the EU understand what the OIC is?

2 Matthew September 24, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Is there a protest group against these loony’s? I feel uncomfortable knowing they may attack freedom of speech and protect religion using international law.

3 Cillian Doyle September 24, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Well put as usual Michael! However why on earth is there an advert for a David Icke talk on your page? Surely we’re not swapping the mainstream lunatics – the Catholic Church – for the more fringe figures such as Icke!?

4 Cillian Doyle September 24, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Apologies I failed to read the reference to Icke in the text. Jumped the gun!

5 Sarah boland September 24, 2012 at 8:36 pm

It is lazy polititions afraid to discuss the issue and gain respect for the more civilized humans on the planet. Giving in to thuggary is so much easier .

6 Chris Matthews September 24, 2012 at 9:28 pm

David Icke has as much right as anyone though to be considered a prophet, i know he doesn’t have as big a following but consider the Jedi religion as well for example, who would be their prophet, George Lucas?

The whole idea of protecting religions is ridiculous and as the piece as well as the first commenter brings up it’s freedom of speech and freedom to worship for INDIVIDUALS as they wish that is important, not a free pass for religions which are basically ancient institutions created to control the masses.

Icke may be a bit zany with his reptilian talk but his coverage of the global control system is bang on (have a look into it yourself) and this is a very thinly veiled attempt to increase that control, not through the bill but through the obvious backlash and inter religious bickering it will only further fuel.

7 Justin September 24, 2012 at 9:54 pm

Who would you recommend to write to about this? Our MEP’s?

8 Graham Martin-Royle September 25, 2012 at 12:31 am

This is ludicrous! Why on earth should I respect religion, am I also supposed to respect the myths portrayed in Lord of The Rings? After all, they are just as respectable and true as religious mythology.

As you rightly point out, if respect is to be given to all prophets then David Icke and the rest will also have to be given respect. Even the church of the FSM will have to be given respect, it’s a religion and no one has the right to say it’s not.

9 AJ Milne September 25, 2012 at 1:29 am

Ooo… Oooo… I’m getting a message from beyooooonnnndddd…

It’s a god talking. He goes by the name of ‘Bob the short’…

‘Bob the short’ sez all previous prophets have been completely full of it. Mohammed, Jesus, Moses, the lot of ’em. They made it all up.

Also, he’s the only god, and this will be his final message to humankind. So: anyone who comes after this was full of it, too.

Oh, and as I am now a prophet, I’d like to thank the various transnational bodies who drafted the above statement for speaking of my glorious respectableness ahead of time.

That’s right. Respect mah authoritah, suckas! The law sez! Also, turn all yer existing churches, mosques, synagogues, and sundry shrines to gods of the Hindu pantheon into rib joints*. Bob doth command it!

Thanks, all, and peace out.

(*/The Hare Krishna places may continue to run their vegetarian restaurants, however. Variety, y’know.)

10 Brad North September 25, 2012 at 1:58 am

Human rights are not about protecting religions; human rights are to protect humans. How can they possibly reconcile this? Oh, yeah, right. Illogically.

11 Rafiq Mahmood September 25, 2012 at 3:10 am

There is one thing everyone in the EU can do and that is to protest to their MEP and demand a resolution in the European Parliament dissociating the Parliament from this executive action and instructing the High Representative for Foreign Affairs to forthwith withdraw support from the statement. That is what your MEP is for. I do not know whether there is similar representation available for citizens of members of the African Union.

12 Graeme September 25, 2012 at 9:54 am

Yeah it’s dangerous to make people above reproach.. I had to have a 25 comment Facebook recently for making some intendedly light-hearted comments about the Dalai Lama.

Of course, as a Christian, I do believe Jesus is above reproach. I don’t want to start making laws about it though, and nobody got arrested for questioning him (while he was around- some rather unfortunate business happened later on).

People need to be free to make up their own minds on this, otherwise what’s the point?!

13 Rosbif September 25, 2012 at 11:01 am

So religion gets protection from name calling, analytical critique and questioning because they don’t feel respected when these harmless things happen. But people have no protection against religion calling for murder if you “leave” their faith, forcing children to marry, discrimination against women and generally having NO RESPECT for any individual that doesn’t follow orders.

One would also be showing no respect if one suggested that these supposed politicians were just trying to keep all calm during their watch in order to continue to shake as many hands as possible and pocket as much payback as pushy cults are prepared to give.
Religion should only be respected if it deserves it.
An individual’s right to belief should only be respected if that belief will never affect any other individual.

14 SoManyStars September 25, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Nuts!
As McAuliffe once said when the barbarians were at the gates.

15 Brad North September 25, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Religion is requesting special protection from ridicule. It has no other options, because it’s ridiculous.

16 Cyril Butler September 25, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Has the euro crisis driven MEPs insane? Respecting peoples right to believe any idiotic notion has always been a declared human right but to demand or even urge people to unanimously respect the religious delusions of every shade and colour is a new and dangerous departure for Europe that only a few centuries ago Europe suffered greatly for. We cant rid ourselves of religiously motivated harm by banning religion but neither can we moderate religion by appeasing it by pretending that it is worthy of intellectual or academic respect when it so obviously is not.

17 Rafiq Mahmood September 25, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Well they are your MEPs. Give them hell and demand they kick Catherine Ashton out and repudiate the statement.

18 Frank Kelly September 25, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Good on ye, Michael!
Hugely disappointed in the relatively enlightened EU.

19 Warwick Hunt September 26, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Fuck the prophet Mohammed!

20 alice Madeley September 27, 2012 at 6:40 pm

This from the judge in the case of the Relate Counselor who refused to do his job if the pair to be counseled were gay:

” The conferment of any legal protection or preference upon a particular substantive moral position on the ground only that it is espoused by the adherents of a particular faith, however long its tradition, however rich its culture, is deeply unprincipled. It imposes compulsory law, not to advance the general good on objective grounds, but to give effect to the force of subjective opinion. “

21 Rafiq Mahmood September 28, 2012 at 2:04 am

These fine words are all very well. We all know how silly and dangerous this is but, instead of attempting to convince the thoroughly convinced the main question is a practical one: what are we going to do about Catherine Ashton? Her office is obviously too powerful unless she can be reigned in by the democratic will of the European people. And that means you.

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