By Loubna Flah
By Loubna Flah
Morocco World News
Casablanca, February 13, 2012
According to the Moroccan daily Al Massae, Mustapha Khalfi, the Moroccan minister of communication called on “Human Rights Watch” to reconsider its position towards the ban imposed by Morocco on the latest issues of “Le Nouvel Observateur” and “Le Pelerin”. He further explained that the Moroccan government considered that both magazines had published content offending Islamic values by representing “God” and the Prophet, both deemed to be sacred. Islam considers that “Allah” (God) is of divine nature transcending the limits of human thought. Therefore, any representation of the Almighty is blasphemy by nature.
Khalfi remained unflinching on the issue asserting that “there is no chance that we reconsider our decision”. He went on to urge the American organization to reassess its position, referring to the UN resolution against religious intolerance. Khalfi was adamant in reminding Human Rights Watch that the resolution, which was adopted in April 11th, 2011, condemns any offense against religious figures, as well as the promotion of derogatory stereotypes against any religious community. “The United Nations does not deem the measures undertaken by governments to protect freedom of religion incongruent with freedom of expression,” he added.
The UN resolution condemns religious intolerance and discrimination on the grounds of religion, as it constitutes a violation of basic human rights. It has also included a call on governments to prohibit defamation. This non-binding UN resolution was adopted amidst reservations that it would open the door to abusive blasphemy laws. Blasphemy laws address irreverence towards religions and holy personages. This law has stirred controversy in many Islamic states, especially in Pakistan where a charge for blasphemy can lead to execution.
There was a series of letters exchanged between Khalfi and Human Rights Watch. The Moroccan minister expressed surprise that HRW turned a blind eye to that UN resolution. HRW executive director in the Middle East and North Africa declared that the ban is a violation of Moroccans’ right to choose for themselves the content they want to be exposed to, a right enshrined in the new constitution that the majority of Moroccans approved. He also implied that this ban is unconstitutional, since it “does not consolidate the democratic overture provisioned by the new constitution.”
The lines between freedom of expression and religious defamation are often blurry. What some writers consider as a critical reading of theological concepts is perceived by others as disdain of religion. Yet, one must confess that the campaign against the prophet Mohammed Peace Be upon Him seeking to vilify this Holy figure has inflamed feeling of hatred on both sides and has further strained relations between Muslims and the West. The need to promote tolerance and maintain peace among nations compels states to promulgate laws against religious defamation. This, however, should not be confused with violation of freedom of information and freedom of speech.
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