In the wake of Quran burnings in parts of Europe, the U.N Human Rights Council has unanimously endorsed a resolution calling on nations to do more to prevent religious hatred, despite opposition from Western nations that worry that stricter government measures may restrict freedom of expression.
After the voting on a resolution proposed by Pakistan and Palestine and supported by many developing nations in Africa, as well as China and India, and Middle Eastern nations, the Human Rights Council’s vast room erupted in applause. The vote was 28-12, with seven abstentions.
The resolution calls on countries to take steps to “prevent and prosecute acts and advocacy of religious hatred that constitute incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.”
After the vote on Wednesday, July 12, 2023, Ambassador Khalil Hashmi of Pakistan insisted that the measure “does not seek to curtail the right to free speech,” but attempts to strike a “prudent balance” between it and “special duties and responsibilities.”
“The opposition of a few in the room has emanated from their unwillingness to condemn the public desecration of the Holy Quran or any other religious book.
“They lack political, legal and moral courage to condemn this act, and it was the minimum that the council could have expected from them.”Ambassador Khalil Hashmi
A day earlier, Michele Taylor, the U.S. Ambassador to the council, said that the United States “strongly condemns the acts that have precipitated today’s discussion, including desecration of the Holy Quran on June 28”; a reference to an incident in Sweden last month that spurred protest in some Muslim communities.
After the vote, Taylor stated that she was “truly heartbroken” that the council was unable to reach consensus “in condemning what we all agree are deplorable acts of anti-Muslim hatred, while also respecting freedom of expression.”
Two weeks ago, a man identified in Swedish media as a refugee from Iraq burned a Quran outside a mosque in central Stockholm during the major Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
The burning drew widespread condemnation in the Muslim world, including Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested that the incident would pose another obstacle to Sweden’s bid for NATO membership, although he later scaled back his objection.
Taliban Suspends Activities Of Swedish Organizations In Afghanistan
Meanwhile, Taliban leaders have suspended all the activities of Swedish organizations in Afghanistan in response to the recent burning of Islam’s holy book in Stockholm.
On Tuesday, July 11, 2023, Zabihullah Mujahid, the Spokesman for the Taliban government, took to Twitter to announce the suspension of Swedish activities in Afghanistan.
“The Islamic Emirate suspends Sweden’s activities in Afghanistan until they apologize to the Muslims for the heinous act” of the desecration of the Quran, he noted.
The announcement left a Swedish non-governmental aid group confused about the future of its programs in Afghanistan, which provide education and medical facilities to thousands of people across the country.
The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan disclosed that it was seeking clarification from the Taliban.
In a statement, the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan noted that it “strongly condemns all acts of desecration of the Holy Quran, just as we condemn any attempt to create conflict or hostility between people based on religious belief, ethnicity, nationality, or any other division.”
Sweden has had no embassy in the Afghan capital, Kabul since the Taliban seized the country in August 2021 while U.S. and NATO troops were in the final weeks of their withdrawal after two decades of war.