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High U.N. Official Calls Free Speech a ‘Gift’

Posted By Joseph Klein On October 3, 2012 @ 12:45 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 17 Comments

The United Nations would have us forget all about the idea of inalienable rights with which all individuals are endowed by their Creator. The UN wants us to forget the idea that government was established for the purpose of securing these rights, not to create them with the power to take them away. Such ideas are so old-fashioned, after all.  The Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment, were written in the eighteenth century.  The United Nations believes it has a much more modern idea.

Free speech is a “gift given to us by the [Universal] Declaration of Human Rights,” said Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations Jan Eliasson during a press conference on October 2nd at UN headquarters in New York.  It is “a privilege,” Eliasson said, “that we have, which in my view involves also the need for respect, the need to avoid provocations.”

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a set of normative principles adopted by a majority of the member states of the UN.  It gave rise to legally enforceable UN human rights treaties that embodied its core principles, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Under Deputy Secretary General Eliasson’s logic, the UN Declaration of Human Rights, which gave us the “gift” of free speech, can be modified or interpreted in such a way that would restrict its use if people were deemed too provocative or irresponsible in what they express.

It’s no leap at all from this premise to the conclusion that statements, cartoons, videos and other forms of expression that offend a religious faith’s sensibilities and provoke them to violence – especially Muslim believers in the superiority of their faith, whom are easily provoked – is an unacceptable misuse of the “gift.”

In an apparent bow to the Muslim world’s reaction regarding the video insulting Prophet Mohammed, Eliasson said:

[W]e understand you, that you were provoked, that it was an absolutely unnecessary, stupid way of causing even more hatred among you. And when you run on the streets and people are killed and buildings are burned down, those who provoke have succeeded. We shouldn’t fall in that trap of provocation, so that’s the line I think we’ll take.

Eliasson’s boss Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said last month that using “freedom of expression to provoke or humiliate some others’ values and beliefs” was not worthy of protection. Rather, Ban Ki-moon indicated that such freedom only deserved protection when “used for common justice, common purpose.”

At first glance, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights appears to be fully consistent with the values enshrined in our Bill of Rights rather than the more restrictive interpretation of the right of free speech put forth by Ban Ki-moon and Jan Eliasson.

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights sounds good to believers in the First Amendment:  “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

But the gift-givers at the United Nations point to another article (Article 29), which in their view makes the “gift” or “privilege” of free speech conditional:

“(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.

(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.                (emphasis added)

(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.” (emphasis added)

As the initial Islamic response to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) foreign ministers adopted the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam in 1990.

The Cairo Declaration reaffirmed “the civilizing and historical role of the Islamic Ummah which God made the best nation that has given mankind a universal and well-balanced civilization in which harmony is established between this life and the hereafter and knowledge is combined with faith.”  After reciting a litany of human rights that it pledged to protect, the Cairo Declaration subjected all of its protections to the requirements of Islamic law.  For example, Article 22 (a) states: “Everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Shari’ah.”

By making Islamic law the sole authority for defining the scope of human rights, the OIC’s Cairo Declaration sanctioned limits on freedom of expression, discrimination against non-Muslims and women, and a prohibition against a Muslim’s conversion from Islam.

Recognizing that the West was certainly not about to replace outright the Universal Declaration with the Cairo Declaration and overtly embrace all of Sharia law, the OIC has worked hard to expand its influence at the United Nations so it could nevertheless incorporate key Sharia concepts into universal human rights norms.

The Islamists managed to ram through the United Nations Human Rights Council and the General Assembly a series of resolutions condemning the “defamation of religions” that put the UN on the side of limiting free speech offensive to Islam. All these UN resolutions are a direct assault on the First Amendment. As constitutional lawyer Floyd Abrams so correctly predicted, “What they would do would be to make it illegal to put out a movie or write a book or a poem that somebody could say was defamatory of Islam.”

Contrary to the UN’s warnings against “provocative” speech, freedom of speech means nothing unless it protects provocative speech that challenges conventional wisdom, rigid beliefs, and official government versions of the “truth.” Nothing must be sacrosanct or off limits to criticism. Mobs must not be given vetoes over free speech because they claim to be offended.

The right of free speech is not a “gift” bestowed by the UN through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which in any event has been bastardized by the Islamists’ successful campaign to infect it with Sharia values. It is an inalienable right. Our Creator bestows this right upon us, which no government, global forum or jihadist can take away unless we let them take it away.