Freedom of speech misused to attack religions, Egypt warns General Assembly

27 September 2008

Freedom of expression is misused too often to insult the faiths and beliefs held dearly by millions of people, Egypt’s Foreign Minister told the General Assembly today, voicing concern at the “unconstructive state of cultural tension” in the world today.

Ahmed Aboul Gheit told the high-level segment of the Assembly’s annual debate, taking place at United Nations Headquarters in New York, that speech was being used to incite hatred based on religion.

“I emphasize here – with the utmost respect to the importance of the freedom of expression – that we reject any depiction of the repeated affronts to religions and sanctities as a legitimate exercise of the freedom of expression, for there are many glaring slogans in the name of which crimes have been committed against thousands and millions of people through offending them and their beliefs and faiths,” he said.

“Egypt calls upon all to consider this matter sagely and objectively with a view to reaching the desired balance that protects the freedom of expression of some, and respects the rights and sentiments of others.”

Mr. Aboul Gheit said the attacks against religion were part of a broader problem that had led to increased cultural tensions, causing “severe digressions of both opinions and actions that inflame public emotions and increases the temperament and severity of the polarization between the followers of different cultures and creeds.”

He called for further action from “the creators of public opinion in all societies to promote moderation and to dissociate them from opinions and policies that only nourish tension and violence.”

In his address the Foreign Minister also turned to the question of human rights, saying it was unfortunate that economic, social and cultural rights were not “accorded the commensurate attention” that civil and political rights receive.

“This negatively affects on the public perception in many of our societies, particularly those which fare dire, and occasionally abrasive, economic and living conditions. To those people, it is believed that continuous talk about human rights represents a luxury they cannot afford and neglects their basic requirements for sustenance.

“Therefore, the promotion of economic and social rights must be seen as a vital reinforcement of the human rights regime that is indispensable for strengthening the implementation and awareness of other components of this regime.”


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