Rasmus Paludan burning Quran

Quran Burnings Prompt U.N. Human Rights Body to Urge Increased Action Against Religious Hatred

In the wake of incidents in Europe where the holy Quran has been burned, the United Nations Human Rights Council is urging countries to take stronger actions to prevent religious hatred.   

In a 28-12 vote in favor of a measure July 12, the Geneva-based council condemned and strongly rejected any advocacy and manifestation of religious hatred in these acts of desecration of the Holy Quran.

Seven countries abstained from voting on the resolution, which faced objections by a string of largely Western countries based on concerns that more stringent government actions could potentially infringe upon freedom of expression.

Brought by Pakistan and Palestine, the proposal received support from developing nations in Africa, China, India, Argentina, South Africa and several Middle Eastern countries. 

Twelve nations voted against the measure, including Belgium, Finland, France and Germany to Montenegro, Romania, Britain and the United States.

Simon Manley, UK Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the WTO, UN and Other International Organizations in Geneva, explained in a statement that while fully committed to the rights of all to practice their religion in peace and support religious diversity, the UK holds that: “international human rights law provides us with narrowly defined parameters in which freedom of expression can be limited. And we do not accept that, by definition, attacks on religion, including on religious texts or symbols, constitute advocacy for hatred…we need to recognize that the primary function of the international human rights framework— forged out of the bitter experience of centuries past—is to protect individuals from the State. Tragically, there are all too many examples in the world right now and in recent years where believers— religious or not—have been ruthlessly oppressed by those who are meant to guarantee their rights.”

Despite today’s vote, our hope is that we can again find a path that enables us to fight religious intolerance and stigmatization together, as one Council.”

The resolution followed the desecration of Islam’s holiest book in various parts of Europe—most recently on June 28, when a man said to be a Christian immigrant from Iraq burned a copy of the Quran on June 28 outside the central mosque in Stockholm.

The U.N. resolution included a call for countries to implement measures that prevent and prosecute acts and promotion of religious hatred, particularly when they incite discrimination, hostility, or violence.