UAE joins US-led call against abuse of blasphemy

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UAE joins US-led call against abuse of blasphemy

AFP and Jim Fair/ zenit.org

The United Arab Emirates on Thursday, July 18, joined a US-led call to prevent the abuse of blasphemy laws.

The United Arab Emirates was one of only three Muslim-majority nations along with Albania and Kosovo, both known for moderation, that signed a statement on blasphemy and apostasy laws at the end of a ministerial-level meeting on religious freedom in Washington.

The statement noted that the laws "are often used as a pretext to justify vigilantism or mob violence in the name of religion, or as a pretext to pursue retribution related to personal grievances."

"We see governments using such laws to wrongfully imprison and punish individuals whose views on matters of religion or belief may differ from official narratives or the views of majority populations," it said.

"We call on governments that utilize these laws to free any individuals imprisoned on such grounds, and to repeal blasphemy, apostasy and other laws that impede the exercise of freedoms of expression and religion or belief, in a manner inconsistent with international law."

Blasphemy remains a punishable offense in the United Arab Emirates.

The latest State Department report on religious freedom said, quoting local press, that a court in July 2018 sentenced a man to seven years in prison followed by deportation for a phone message deemed to be blasphemous.

But the United Arab Emirates, a close US ally, has won international praise for recent steps including welcoming Pope Francis in February on the first-ever papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula.

The United Arab Emirates also held a conference as part of the US religious freedom initiative, a key priority for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Blasphemy is an especially explosive issue in Pakistan, where Christian woman Asia Bibi was sentenced to death and two of her high-profile defenders assassinated before she was able to leave for Canada in May.

Vice President Mike Pence, addressing the ministerial earlier on Thursday, urged Pakistan to free another person jailed for blasphemy, university lecturer Junaid Hafeez.

A total of 20 countries signed the joint statement on blasphemy including the United States, Britain, Italy and Poland.

US Secretary of State: Religious Freedom Matters to Billions of World’s People

The second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom — July 16-18, 2019 in Washington — drew a much bigger crowd than the first event a year ago. That might not seem like headline news but it isn’t because there was more publicity, nicer hotel rooms, better food, or a lavish side tour to Disney World.

“The astounding growth proves a simple matter,” according to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “It proves that religious freedom matters to literally billions of people all around the world. Look around you. Religious freedom isn’t just a Christian concern, a Jewish concern, a Muslim concern, a Buddhist concern, a Hindu concern, or a humanist concern. It’s all of our concern; it is everyone’s concern.”

Pompeo’s comments came during his keynote address on July 18, during which he noted that some of those attending “have been persecuted for your faith, cast out from society, banished from your homes. If you are here as a survivor of persecution, I want you to know you are among friends today.

“We’re here because each of us believes that religious freedom must be upheld, protected, and advanced. But it’s important to understand where that belief comes from.”

As part of the Ministerial, the United States government presented several Statements of Concern to the country delegations participating. These Statements of Concern highlight some of the most pressing issues impacting religious freedom around the world and particular countries where religious freedom is under serious threat. Participating countries were given the opportunity to join these Statements of Concern to demonstrate their shared concern on these key issues. You can see the various statements at the links following and see which delegations joined in support of each statement.

Sat, 07/20/2019 - 10:04
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