"UN-acceptable censorship: The United Nations tries to outlaw criticism of Islam," by Floyd Abrams for the Daily News, January 14:
Almost 500 years ago, on the wall of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses, characterizing as "madness" the notion that papal pardons could absolve individuals for their sins. As viewed from Rome, Luther had maligned, even defamed, the church. Luther was eventually excommunicated. His conduct ultimately led to the creation of a Protestant Church in Germany and a Reformation throughout Europe.
It is difficult to believe that in the 21st century anyone would seriously propose that conduct such as Luther's should be deemed illegal. But a few weeks ago, the General Assembly of the United Nations took a giant step in that direction. It adopted - for the fourth straight year - a resolution prepared by the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference calling upon all UN nations to adopt legislation banning the "defamation" of religion. Spurred by the Danish cartoons of 2005, some of which portrayed the Prophet Muhammed in a manner deemed offensive by the OIC, the resolution was opposed by the United States, most European nations, Japan, India and a number of other nations.
Nonetheless, it has now been adopted. [...]
From the very first OIC resolution to the current one there has never been any ambiguity about its purpose: to intimidate those who might criticize Islam. As phrased in the original OIC resolution introduced by Pakistan in 1999, Islam was "frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism." But it is a fact that however one may debate about whether "Islam" bears any responsibility for acts of terrorism ranging from the murderous 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington to the more recent massacre in Mumbai, terrible acts of violence have been committed in the name of Islam. It is also the case that repeated human rights violations, including female genital mutilation, also have occurred in the name of Islam.
It is one thing to urge that all Muslims should not be criticized because of these acts. But the notion that it may or should be made a crime even to "associate" Islam with crimes too often committed in its name is inconsistent with any notion that both freedom of speech and religion should be protected. What cannot be even negotiable is the freedom, the unfettered freedom, to publish challenging books, movies and - yes - the Danish cartoons.
Be sure to read it all.