As the U.N. General Assembly convenes this week in New York, several leaders of mostly Muslim nations are suggesting that the world body consider sanctions on blasphemy, amid widespread protests against an amateur movie that denigrates Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he will focus at least part of his remarks on the film when he addresses the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday.
“I am the prime minister of a nation, of which most are Muslims, that has declared anti-Semitism a crime against humanity. But the West hasn’t recognized Islamophobia as a crime against humanity. It has encouraged it,” Mr. Erdogan told reporters last week.
Turkey heads the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a body of 57 nations
, which has long pushed for a U.N. resolution condemning the “defamation of religion.”
Nonbinding versions of the resolution have been adopted, but the effort was crushed last year by religious groups and human rights activists who argued that it represented a dangerous step toward an international law against free speech.
The debate has been reignited by “Innocence of Muslims,” a crudely produced film made in the United States that has sparked fury in the Muslim world. Protesters have breached the walls at U.S. embassies and desecrated American flags in sometimes violent demonstrations. A protest in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi ended with the deaths of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appealed Monday to Muslims to show “dignity” and not resort to violence as they protest the film, the Associated Press reported.
“Dignity does not come from avenging insults, especially with violence that can never be justified,” Mrs. Clinton said at her husband’s Clinton Global Initiative. “It comes from taking responsibility and advancing our common humanity.”
In New York on Monday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad alluded to the film and accused the United States and others of misusing freedom of speech and of failing to speak out against the defamation of people’s beliefs and “divine prophets.”
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose country boasts the world’s largest Muslim population, has condemned the film and called on “the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the U.N. to mull over international protocol to prevent such things like this from happening again.”
Pakistan’s parliament passed a resolution condemning “Innocence of Muslims” and demanding the nation’s leaders to call on the United Nations to take action against those who made the film.
At least one politician has gone a step further in Egypt, where the anti-American protests were triggered after a Salafist Muslim TV network broadcast Arabic-dubbed clips of the film.
“We call for legislation or a resolution to criminalize contempt of Islam as a religion and its prophet,” Emad Abdel Ghaffour, who heads the ultra-orthodox sect’s Nour political party, told Reuters over the weekend.
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi will address the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday, and many are waiting to see whether he will echo Mr. Ghaffour’s remarks.