Separation of Religion or Belief and State




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Issue:  Taboos prevent inclusive & genuine dialogue on freedom of religion or belief.


For: United Nations, Governments, Religions or Beliefs, Academia, NGOs, Media, Civil Society


Review: In Egypt, Religious Clashes are off the Record, by Michael Slackman, New York Times: 1 February 2010


Excerpts: “A few weeks ago, on the day that Coptic Christians celebrate Christmas Eve, a Muslim gunman open fire on worshippers as they walked out of church, killing 7, wounding 10 and leading to the worst sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians in Egypt in years.  In the days that followed, there were riots and clashes. Stores were wrecked. Homes were burned.


The one thing the government would not do was admit the obvious: Egypt had experienced one of the most serious outbreaks of sectarian violence in years. Instead, it said talk of sectarian conflict amounted to sedition. But the evidence, provided in newspapers, was irrefutable: 14 Muslims arrested, 28 Christians arrested, Christian shops burned, Muslim housed burned.


Egypt has experienced many clashes over the years between its Muslim majority and Christian minority, and has always insisted that the conflicts were driven by something else-anything-else.


Many political analysts and commentators and local people say that this approach-treating all crisis as a security problem-tends to aggravate tensions. A group of Christians and Muslims agreed to speak with a reporter about life here, about interfaith relations and about their government. Everyone agreed that interfaith relations were fine on a daily basis. But they also said that there was interfaith tension, especially among the young people, and they called on government to deal with it.”


For UN Member States with ideological differences on defamation of religion and the right to change a religion or belief, it is important to continue the dialogue to “overcome the gaps in perceptions, concepts and ideas” and achieve consensus between deeply-held religious beliefs and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Vote on Defamation of Religions


Survey Questionnaire


Taboos: prohibited areas for discussion of a religion or belief agreed upon by a tradition, culture or law. Article 19 ICCPR; everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression. It may be subject to certain restrictions as provided by law and necessary for respect for the rights or reputations of others, or for the protection of national security, public order, public health or morals.  


35: Organization has taboos that discourage or prevent open discussion of religion or belief. Y/N
36: Defines defamation of religion within the context of freedom of opinion and expression. Y/N
37: Use human rights-based approach to discuss taboos and defamation of religion or belief. Y /N 


Article 18: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

UN General Comment 22 on Article 18


Article 18 protects theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. The terms "belief" and "religion" are to be broadly construed. Article 18 is not limited in its application to traditional religions or to religions and beliefs with institutional characteristics or practices analogous to those of traditional religions. The Committee therefore views with concern any tendency to discriminate against any religion or belief for any reason, including the fact that they are newly established, or represent religious minorities that may be the subject of hostility on the part of a predominant religious community.


Attachments: In Egypt, Religious Clashes are off the Record; Vote on Defamation of Religions.