The Obama Administration Will Oppose a Global Blasphemy Law (I Hope)
Last fall, the U.S. joined Egypt in a carefully worded statement in favor of free expression, but it raised concerns that the U.S. was implicitly endorsing the movement in many Islamic countries to ban blasphemous (or anti-Islamic) speech. In an otherwise anodyne address to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Esther Brimmer provides this nugget of policy:
First, the Administration takes seriously the concerns of some states regarding combating discrimination on the basis of race and religion. At the same time, we are deeply troubled by efforts to impose a global ban on defamation, the equivalent to an international blasphemy law. It is a priority of this Administration, at the Council, to find a consensus based approach to address racial and religious intolerance – however we will not support efforts at the Council that would protect minorities from offense by restricting free speech. We are committed to a respectful, inclusive approach that speaks to real concerns of discrimination and intolerance, but leads to an acceptable path where governments can take concrete action to make progress and promote mutual respect.
Of course, the devil is in the details. This hardly fully addresses the concerns discussed above. But it shows (hopefully) that the Administration sees the problem, and is willing to draw the line in favor of free speech. Maybe this is just wishful thinking on my part…