(Adds context to paras 2-3, quotes from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from para 5)
Geneva, July 11, 2010: Pakistan’s foreign minister said on Tuesday that desecration of the Qur’an is inciting religious hatred after the UN Human Rights Council made a controversial motion last month when the Koran was burned in Sweden.
Pakistan’s request for a response to the crisis in Sweden calls for a UN rights chief to submit a report on the topic, asking them to review their laws and plug loopholes that “impede the prevention and prosecution of acts of religious hatred.”
It highlighted the rift between the West and Muslim factions at the United Nations, with Western members concerned about the implications for freedom of speech and longstanding challenges to human rights protections.
An Iraqi immigrated to Sweden last month burned a Koran outside a Stockholm mosque, sparking outrage in the Muslim world and protests in several Pakistani cities.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari told the council via video link: “We must clearly see this as incitement to religious hatred, discrimination and violence.” A feeling of innocence”.
He added, “There is a need to understand the serious harm caused to Muslims by public and deliberate humiliation of the Qur’an. This is an attack on their faith.”
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan condemned the Swedish incident.
UN human rights chief Volker Turk told the 47-member council that inciting attacks against Muslims and other religious or minority groups were “offensive, irresponsible and wrong”.
However, as these are “complex areas”, caution must be exercised against the possibility of abuse by those in power by imposing legal restrictions on free speech.
(Reporting by Emma Farge and Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber; Editing by Emma Rumney)