Wednesday, October 15, 2008

IHEU News - summarised by Margaret Nelson


By Margaret Nelson - Posted on 06 October 2008

Happy human red 2This is a monthly update of news from International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU). You can find the full versions of these news stories on the IHEU web site. To receive the monthly news update, sign up here.

This issue includes reports from IHEU's delegation to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, where real progress has been made, particularly on issues of freedom of expression and separation of religion and state. For other news, please scroll down.

Human Rights Council: The fight-back begins
In what was probably a first for the United Nations, delegates to the Human Rights Council heard two Muslims describe Islamism as "Racism" and tell their listeners that the OIC does not speak for the majority of the world's Muslims. Danish MP and leader of the Liberal Alliance Naser Khader, and Tarek Fatah, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress were eloquent in their denunciation of the OIC, its Saudi paymasters, Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood. The conference was widely reported, including in the Pakistan Daily Times. Read more

Egypt accuses IHEU of inciting hatred
An Egyptian delegate to the Human Rights Council has accused IHEU of inciting and promoting hatred. “Every statement is incitement to hatred. Every statement is promoting hatred” he said. The accusation was made during a point of order by Egypt’s Amr Roshdy Hassan, who objected to the statement being made by IHEU representative Roy Brown on the subject of Islamophobia. We have a transcript of the Egyptian intervention in full (below). Readers can decide for themselves whether the accusation was justified. We now have video of this intervention. Read more

Growing opposition to the concept of "defamation of religion"
The tide really does seem to be turning in the debate on combating defamation of religion -- even to the point where there are hopes among some delegates that the concept will soon be buried, at least in the Human Rights Council. Following attacks by France and Belgium last week on the notion of defamation of religion, several NGOs joined the attack on Tursday with several strong statements. The Cairo Center for Human Rights Studies with Article 19, the European Center for Law and Justice, and Center for Inquiry in a joint statement with IHEU were among those who weighed in. Read more

Criticism of religion is not blasphemy
The IHEU position on defamation of religion was strongly supported on 23 September 2008 in a statement to the Human Rights Council prepared by Rabbi Francois Garai of the World Union of Progressive Judaism. Egypt tried to have the statement ruled out of order on the grounds that "Nobody can discuss the basic tenets of any religion in this Council." In other words, a Jewish Rabbi (unlike the Holy See) was not qualified to discuss the basic tenets of Judaism! Read more

IHEU attacks concept of "Islamophobia"
IHEU has told the UN Human Rights Council that the concept of "Islamophobia" is unhelpful and misleading, wrongly implying that any criticism of Islam is based on “irrational fear” and must lead automatically to hatred of Muslims. Read more

New team attacks religious privilege at the UN
After ploughing our lonely furrow at the Human Rights Council for the past five years, often with only the colourful veteran Human Rights advocate David Littman for company, it was a pleasure to welcome three new additions to the team for the 9th session of the Human Rights Council: Austin Dacey and Hugo Estrella from CfI and our new intern Xavier Cornut. Read more

IHEU speaks out (cautiously) against OIC censorship at UN
Following the successful attempts by the Islamic States at the 7th and 8th sessions of the Human Rights Council in March and June to silence any criticism of Sharia Law and the linking of certain abuses of human rights, such as the stoning of women, to Islam, IHEU main representative, Roy Brown, struck back at the 9th session on 19 September with a statement on the human rights of women. He argued that "No State should be permitted to hide behind tradition, culture or religion in order to justify any abuse of women's human rights," adding "It must be possible here to freely exercise the right to freedom of expression in order to defend the human rights of all, including women, and to expose abuse, whatever the attempted justification." Read more

IHEU defends rights of women and attacks censorship at the UN
In a joint statement with Center for Inquiry, IHEU has condemned abuses of women's human rights, including child marriage and "honour" killings, especially in Pakistan and Iran. IHEU also attacked the culture of censorship that now prevails in the Human Rights Council. Read more

AWE addresses human rights violations experienced by women
In an oral statement to the UN Human Rights Council, the Association for World Education has supported IHEU in calling for concerted action to prevent female genital mutilation, "honour" killings, stoning, facial maiming with acid and child marriage. Read more

CFI supports humanity, equality and human rights for women
Center for Inquiry has delivered an oral statement at the UN Human Rights Council supporting IHEU in defending the rights of women. Read more

USA speaks out strongly against OIC manoeuvring on "defamation of religion"
The US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, John V. Hanford III, has strongly supported freedom of religion and freedom of expression, and opposed the OIC's promotion of the concept of "defamation of religions" at the UN as incompatible with international human rights law. Read more

Defamation of religion is not a human rights concept - Belgium
In a statement to the UN Human Rights Council, Belgium has come out firmly on the side of individual human rights. Read more

IHEU calls on UN Human Rights Council to condemn Sudan
In a statement to the Human Rights Council, IHEU has called for Sudan to be condemned for its failure to safeguard the human rights of vast numbers of its citizens. Read more

Spinoza and secularism at the UN
Quoting Spinoza in a statement to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva delivered jointly with the Association for World Education, IHEU has urged the Council to prioritize freedom of expression over demands for laws of the state to yield to the laws of God. Read more

IHEU stands up for the primacy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
In a written statement to the UN Human Rights Council, Sixty years after the UDHR: threats to the universality of human rights, IHEU has highlighted the overriding, universal status of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the wide divergence between the UDHR and the 1990 Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam. Read more


Recognition for the Ainu
Japan's parliament has adopted a resolution that, for the first time, formally recognises the Ainu as "an indigenous people with a distinct language, religion and culture". In a nation that has always preferred to perceive itself as ethnically homogenous, it is a highly significant move. Traditionally the Ainu lived off the land, worshipping natural landmarks and Read more

Celebrating Darwin - February 2009
In February 2009, we shall be marking the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of his great, seminal work, On the Origin of Species. Just as Copernicus and the many great scientists who followed him had upset the view that the Earth was the centre of the Universe, so Darwin upset the view that humans were privileged beings, specially created by divine will and totally distinct from the rest of life. It is no exaggeration to say that Darwin's discoveries have provided a basis for modern Humanism. Read more

HSS conference - Humanism in Scotland - North Queensferry, 25 October 2008
IHEU member organization Humanist Society Scotland will hold its annual conference in North Queensferry on 25 October 2008. The theme will be The impact of Humanism on Scotland in the 21st century. Read more

Humanist events for Europride 2008
On 30 July, as part of the programme of Europride 2008, the Swedish Humanist Association organised two very successful events. The first was a panel discussion, 'Religion: the hotbed of homophobia?' for which the 120-person auditorium in the main Pride Hall of Stockholm was packed to capacity, with many more would-be listeners turned away at the door. The second was a more informal pub evening allowing humanists from different countries to discuss the issues of the day over drinks and food. Read more

Continuum of Humanist Education
IHEU member organization the Institute for Humanist Studies has made its online e-learning materials on Humanism freely available to all. Starting now, anyone with an Internet connection anywhere in the world can learn about Humanism for free. Read more

National conference on Osu caste system and untouchability - 21-22 October, 2008
Join Humanists, Freethinkers, human rights activists, intellectuals from Nigeria and Overseas to discuss and debate on how to eradicate caste discrimination and untouchability in the world. Sponsorships are available for victims of caste discrimination and untouchability in Nigeria. Read more

International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) is the world umbrella organisation for Humanist, ethical culture, rationalist, secularist and freethought groups. Based in London, it is an international NGO with Special Consultative Status with the UN (New York, Geneva, Vienna), General Consultative Status at UNICEF (New York) and the Council of Europe (Strasbourg), and it maintains operational relations with UNESCO (Paris).

Its mission is to build and represent the global Humanist movement, to defend human rights and to promote Humanist values world-wide. IHEU sponsors the triennial World Humanist Congress.

You can find out more about IHEU on the web site

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