Several Muslim and African states have proposed to denounce bans against minaret construction as ‘Islamophobic’ as part of a UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution on religious defamation. According to Swiss Foreign Ministry spokesperson Raphaël Saborit, “in principle Switzerland disagrees with the concept of a resolution devoted to the defamation of religion,” as religious freedom ought to protect individual rights to practise one’s own religion, and not the religion itself.
The Council of State, Belgium’s top administrative court, ruled that schools may ban girls from wearing the Muslim headscarf or hijab. The court argued that a ban on the garment is not discriminatory, but rather, reinforced principals of equality and solidarity.
While the ruling does not argue for a mandatory ban, it gives Belgian schools to take the decision into their own hands. The Movement against Racism, anti-Semitism, and Xenophobia, a prominent civil rights group, slammed the ruling as “ideological, factious, and anti-democratic.” It added that it was considering appealing the ruling to either the European Court of Human Rights, or the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The top United Nations rights body passes a resolution proposed by Islamic countries saying it is deeply concerned with the defamation of religions and urging governments to prohibit it. The European Union claimed the text was one-sided, however, because it focused primarily on Islam. Over the opposition of Europe and Canada, the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted the resolution with a 21-10 vote. EU diplomats said they were concerned with a trend to use religious anti-defamation laws to limit free speech.
PARIS – France’s ethnic minorities are trapped in social and economic “ghettos” because of an “insidious racism” tolerated by French politicians, a senior UN envoy warned Friday, September 28. “Racism is alive, insidious and clearly targeted at those ‘visible’ minorities of immigrant heritage, the majority of whom are French citizens,” UN independent expert on minority issues Gay J. McDougall said in a report drawn up following a 10-day fact-finding mission to France, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP). “People who have worked hard, played by all the rules and truly believe in the principles of the French republic are trapped in socially and geographically isolated urban ghettos, with unemployment in some areas over 40 per cent.” McDougall, who travelled to poor, high-immigration suburbs of Paris, Marseille in the south and Strasbourg in the east that were hit by riots in 2005, is to report back to the UN Human Rights Council in March.