THE TANDEM PROJECT
UNITED NATIONS, HUMAN RIGHTS,
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
THE NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE - PRESIDENT APOSTATE?
Issue: President Apostate? Why an Obama win might not improve relations with Muslims
For: United Nations, Governments, Religions or Beliefs, Academia, NGOs, Media, Civil Society
Review: President Apostate? Why an Obama win might not
improve relations with Muslims, by Edward N. Luttwak, New York Times Op-Ed article,
The United Nations Human Rights Council failed to achieve consensus over this issue (attached Word File Document) in December 2007. Whether the alleged facts in the New York Times story are completely accurate or not; the New York Times article illustrates the Human Rights Council impasse due to Muslim’s not being allowed to leave their faith. This Issue Statement agrees apostasy is a problem but does not agree or endorse the idea that Senator Barrack Obama, as a U.S. President Barrack Obama, would hamper relations with the Muslim world in this way.
Extracts from President Apostate? begin on the second page followed by an Issue Statement
International Standards for National and Local Applications
Objective: Build understanding and support for Article 18, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights –Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion - and the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. Encourage the United Nations, Governments, Religions or Beliefs, Academia, NGOs, Media and Civil Society to use international human rights standards as essential for long-term solutions to conflicts based on religion or belief.
Challenge: In 1968 the United Nations deferred work on an International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Religious Intolerance, because of its apparent complexity and sensitivity. In the twenty-first century, a dramatic increase of intolerance and discrimination on grounds of religion or belief is motivating a worldwide search to find solutions to these problems. This is a challenge calling for enhanced dialogue by States and others; including consideration of an International Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief for protection of and accountability by all religions or beliefs. The tensions in today’s world inspire a question such as:
Response: Is it the appropriate moment to
reinitiate the drafting of a legally binding international convention on
freedom of religion or belief? Law making of this nature requires a minimum
consensus and an environment that appeals to reason rather than emotions. At
the same time we are on a learning curve as the various dimensions of the
Declaration are being explored. Many academics have produced voluminous books
on these questions but more ground has to be prepared before setting up of a UN
working group on drafting a convention. In my opinion, we should not try to
rush the elaboration of a Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief,
especially not in times of high tensions and unpreparedness. - UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief,
Option: After forty years this may be the time, however complex and sensitive, for the United Nations Human Rights Council to appoint an Open-ended Working Group to draft a United Nations Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief. The mandate for an Open-ended Working Group ought to assure nothing in a draft Convention will be construed as restricting or derogating from any right defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants on Human Rights, and the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. One writer has said; “Religion raises the stakes of human conflict much higher than tribalism, racism, or politics ever can…it casts the differences between people in terms of eternal rewards and punishments.”
Concept: Separation of Religion or
Belief and State – SOROBAS. The starting point for this concept is the First
Preamble to the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights; “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable
rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice
and peace in the world. It suggests
States recalling their history, culture and constitution adopt fair and equal
human rights protection for all religions or beliefs as described in General
Comment 22 on Article 18, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,
UN Human Rights Committee,
Dialogue & Education
Dialogue: United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, at an Alliance of Civilizations Forum said; “Never in our lifetime has there been a more desperate need for constructive and committed dialogue, among individuals, among communities, among cultures, among and between nations.” An author in another setting has said, “The warning signs are clear: unless we establish genuine dialogue within and among all kinds of belief, ranging from religious fundamentalism to secular dogmatism, the conflicts of the future will probably be even more deadly.” There are varying degrees of cooperation, competition and conflict within and between religions or beliefs. International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief is international human rights law and a code of conduct to promote cooperation, regulate competition and resolve conflicts. To include the value and use of these International Standards for world peace is genuine dialogue on freedom of religion or belief
Extracts: Extracts are presented under the Eight Articles of the 1981 U.N. Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. Examples of extracts are presented prior to an Issue Statement for each Review.
1. 2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have a religion or belief of his choice.
Barack Obama has emerged as a classic example of
charismatic leadership – a figure upon whom others project their own hopes and
desires. The resulting emotional intensity adds greatly to the more
conventional strengths of the well-organized Obama campaign, and it has
certainly sufficed to overcome the formidable initial advantages of Senator
Hillary Clinton. Mr. Obama’s election would raise America’s esteem in Africa-
indeed, he already arouses much enthusiasm in his father’s native
With few exceptions, the jurists of all Sunni and Shite schools prescribe executions for all adults who leave the faith not under duress; the recommended punishment is beheading at the hands of a cleric, although in recent years there have been both stonings and hangings. Some may point to cases in which lesser punishments were ordered- Egyptian intellectuals who have been punished for writings that were construed as apostasy – but those were really instances of supposed heresy, not explicitly declared apostasy as in Senator Obama’s case.
It is true that the criminal codes in most Muslim
countries do not mandate executive for apostasy (although a law doing exactly
that is pending before
That an Obama presidency would cause such complications in our dealings with the Islamic world is not likely to be a major factor with American voters, and the implication is not that it should be. But of all the well-meaning desires projected on Senator Obama, the hope that he would decisively improve relations with the world’s Muslims is the least realistic.
This is a link to the
full story in the New York Times Op Ed page article: Presidential
Apostate? – Why an Obama win might not improve relations with Muslims, Edward
ISSUE STATEMENT: The United Nations Human Rights Council voted 29 in
favor, 0 against and 18 abstentions on
The 18 country
abstentions were based on the objections from
The Human Rights Council lack of consensus on this issue is a serious concern. The Geneva-based Human Rights Council is the major body of the United Nations intersecting international law and politics with religious and non-religious beliefs. International Standards on Human Rights and Freedom of Religion or Belief is international law, a code of conduct to promote cooperation, regulate competition and resolve conflicts. If the Human Rights Council cannot reconcile this issue, what happens next? What happens when the resolution is brought to the United Nations Economic and Social Council and then to the floor of the United Nations General Assembly?
This Issue Statement does not endorse or agree with the New York Times article that Senator Barrack Obama, as a U.S. President Obama, would hamper relations with the Muslim world in this way. It does raise the question of apostasy in a modern public way that for centuries has been part of a religious-cultural perspective, whether a person has the right to leave a religion or belief. This relates international politics to universal human rights and freedom of religion or belief.
To see the video of the full
debate on this issue on the floor of the United Nations Human Rights Council,
click to open this link to Human Rights Council Webcast for
If you cannot open the Webcast, download Real Player to open the Human Rights Council live Webcast. It can be downloaded by clicking on this link to Human Rights Council Webcast Index:
Reply: The Tandem Project Country & Community Database collects information worldwide on United Nations Human Rights Bodies. The information is used for UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Reviews (UPR); UN Treaty-based Reports; UN Special Procedures, Special Rapporteur Reports. Click on the link below to open the Database. Read the Instructions & Table of Contents: scroll to an Article of your choice and click to reply.
The Tandem Project: a non-profit, non-governmental organization established in 1986 to build understanding and respect for diversity of religion or belief, and prevent discrimination in matters relating to freedom of religion or belief. The Tandem Project has sponsored multiple conferences, curricula, reference materials and programs on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion - and the 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.
The Tandem Project initiative was launched in 1986 as the result of a co-founder representing the World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) at a 1984 United Nations Geneva Seminar, Encouragement of Understanding, Tolerance and Respect in Matters Relating to Freedom of Religion or Belief, called by the UN Secretariat on ways to implement the 1981 UN Declaration. In 1986, The Tandem Project organized the first NGO International Conference on the 1981 UN Declaration.
The Tandem Project
Executive Director: Michael M. Roan, firstname.lastname@example.org.
PRESIDENT AS AN APOSTATE - Why an Obama win might not improve relations with Muslims
UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL ADOPTS RESOLUTION ON FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
DOCUMENTS FOR DIALOGUE - ISLAM & FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
The Tandem Project is a UN NGO in Special Consultative Status with the
Economic and Social Council of the United Nations