Monday, March 30, 2009


Back in class V, one of the fun ways to spend Civics class was to play "United Nations". One dude would be India, one China, one Pakistan and so on. I got the chance to play some sort of mediator, the Sec. Gen. or whatever. Growing up, as one read of the role the UN played in recent history (mediating US-Soviet Conflict, Indo-Pak '49, Indo-China '62, Afghanistan, Rwanda and so on), it became clear that the actual UN wasn't much different from the game. Indeed, one wonders how they would fare on "Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?".

But recently the UN did something that flies so magnificently in the face of logic and reason as to leave you awestruck. On the 27th of March, a resolution was passed that criticized, sorry condemned criticism of religion. Why? According to the august body, "defamation of religion" was a human rights violation. And what august body was this? The UN Council for Human Rights, in response to a proposition put forward by that eternal champion of human rights, Pakistan. Seeing this bold and noble step, various other nations, that were also members of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in Africa and the Middle East, each havens for human rights and dignity, backed this resolution giving it the full support it needed. Their point was that a "delicate balance" had to be struck between respect for religion and freedom of expression (full story here).

For the human rights watchdog of a body formed to promote human rights and development to propose curbs on freedom of expression is the sort of thing George Orwell would have loved to satirize, something so patently ridiculous you do not know whether to laugh or cry at it. The good news though is that this resolution is "non-binding" as is. The UN moreover in recent years has (mercifully) had just enough power to blow its nose and sneeze if the President of the United States okays.

A quick note on India's role in this. Along with Canada, India criticized the resolution as vague and easily malleable to fundie interpretation. On these noble grounds however, it did not vote on the issue. Nehru must be smiling somewhere.

Dante Alighieri wrote - The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a time of moral crisis, remain neutral" The UN's very role was to promote such neutrality to begin with. It seems finally close to generating some heat on Earth itself.