Free Speech, Religion and the United Nations : The Political Struggle to Define International Free Speech Norms book cover
1st Edition

Free Speech, Religion and the United Nations
The Political Struggle to Define International Free Speech Norms

ISBN 9780367234805
Published August 7, 2019 by Routledge
256 Pages - 1 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This book explores the political struggle to interpret and define the meaning, the scope and the implications of human rights norms in general and freedom of expression in particular.

From the Rushdie affair and the Danish cartoon affair to the Charlie Hebdo massacre and draconian legislation against blasphemy worldwide, the tensions between free speech ideals and religious sensitivities have polarized global public opinion and the international community of states, triggering fierce political power struggles in the corridors of the UN. Inspired by theories of norm diffusion in International Relations, Skorini investigates how the struggle to define the limits of free speech vis-à-vis religion unfolds within the UN system. Revealing how human rights terminology is used and misused, the book also considers how the human rights vision paradoxically contains the potential to justify human rights violations in practice. The author explains how states exercise power within the field of international human rights politics and how non-democratic states strategically apply mainstream human rights language and secular human rights law in order to justify authoritarian religious censorship norms both nationally and internationally.

This interdisciplinary book will appeal to scholars and students researching international human rights, religion and politics. The empirical chapters are also relevant for professionals and activists within the field of human rights.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

1.1 Free Speech and Religious Sensitivities: The Persistence of Blasphemy in the 21. Century

1.2 Empirical Background: A Brief Account of the UN Conflict on "Defamation of Religions"

1.3 Originality, Contribution and Main Arguments: Understanding Transnational Norm Diffusion as a Discursive Process

1.4 Methodology and Analytical Framework

1.5 Conclusion

2. Theoretical Literature Review

2.1 The Emergence, Diffusion and Reversion of International Human Rights Norms

2.2 Communitarianism and Cosmopolitanism: Original Conflicts

2.3 Cosmopolitanism, Communitarianism and International Relations

2.4 OIC as an International Norm Entrepreneur

2.5 Conclusion: Interpreting Discursive Norm Struggles Through the Cosmopolitan- Communitarian Lens

3. Historical Background: OIC’s Discourse on Freedom of Expression and Religion Prior to 1999

3.1 OIC’s History: Between Political Rivalry and Religious Unity

3.2 OIC’s New Human Rights Instruments: Subordinating Freedom of Expression to Religious Authority

3.3 A Note on Domestic Free Speech Norms in Leading OIC Member States

3.4. Islam Under Siege: Freedom of Expression and Religion in OIC’s Early Documents

3.5 The Rushdie Affair and OIC’s Escalating Efforts to Combat Blasphemy Internationally

3.6 Free Speech Conflicts in UN’s Human Rights Fora in the Nineties: The Many Versions of "Universal" Human Rights

3.7 Conclusion: Strategic Adaptation to a Secular Human Rights Discourse

4. Mapping OIC’s Discourse on Freedom of Expression vis-à-vis Religion: Defamation of Religions as a Human Rights Violation

4.1 OIC’s Embracement of UN’s Human Rights Instruments

4.2 Defamation of Religions as a New and Emerging Form of Racism

4.3 Borrowing Arguments from the Enemy: Textual Interaction and OIC’s Accusation of Western Double Standards

4.4 OIC’s Efforts to Control UN’s Independent Human Rights Reporting

4.5 Defamation of Religions as Incitement to Hatred, Hostility and Violence

4.6 Defamation of Religions as a Threat to Peace and Stability

4.7 The Difference Between OIC’s Resolutions and Consensus Resolution 16/18: Game Changer or More of the Same?

4.8 Conclusion: OIC’s Wavering Between Islamic law and Secular International Law

5. Defeating OIC’s Free Speech Agenda: Internal and External Factors Which Have Enabled and Constrained OIC’s Agency in the UN

5.1 Framing a Norm Confrontation: OIC’s Resolution as a Threat to Freedom of Expression and Other Human Rights

5.2 The Islamic Factor: OIC’s Ability to Form a Religious Cross-regional Alliance

5.3 The Non-Islamic Factor: International Alliances and Rivalries beyond Islam

5.4 American Diplomacy: Domestic Factors, National Interests, International Alliances and Individual Diplomacy

5.6 The Role of Independent Experts

5.7 The Power of Individual Diplomacy

6. Conclusion: Human Rights Language as a Double-Edged Sword: Empowering the Individual or Empowering the State

6.1 Norm Contestation: Reducing the Scope of Freedom of Expression by Invoking and Broadening Other Norms

6.2 Censorship as a Way of Protecting the Individual: Between Liberal and non-Liberal Universalism

6.3 The Double-Edged Sword: Employing Human Rights Language to Promote Oppression or Liberation

6.4 Blocking the Invention of a New Norm: The Presence of a Superpower and the Multiple Factors Shaping International Norm Diffusion

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    Heini í Skorini holds a PhD in International Relations from King's College London, UK. He is Assistant Professor in the Faculty of History and Social Sciences at the University of the Faroe Islands (Denmark). He teaches international relations, human rights, and religion and politics, both internationally and in a local context. His research interests include religion and society, religion and politics, human rights, freedom of expression, human reasoning in relation to science, religion and political controversy.

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    Author - Heini í Skorini

    Heini í Skorini

    Assistant Professor, Ph.D. in International Relations from King's College London, University of the Faroe Islands
    Torshavn, Faroe Islands, Faroe Islands (Denmark)

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    "Heini Skorini’s outstanding work exposes the manipulation of human rights language by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in aid of its agenda. This is scholarship at its best, grounded in careful research of primary sources and a firm grasp of the relevant theoretical and ethical debates and literatures. Ultimately, the book constitutes a forceful defence of the universalist principles which underpin human rights." - Katerina Dalacoura, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK.

    "This timely and important book provides a bird’s eye view of the political struggle to interpret and define the meaning of human rights and freedom of expression. Empirically and conceptually rich, Skorini explores the ‘double-edged sword’ of the UN human rights regime, in both promoting human rights and justifying oppressive policies, as well as the strategic framing of diverse actors that makes this paradoxical outcome possible. The book represents an original contribution to the literature on norms, and is a must read for those who wish to understand how norms travel, are contested, and are unavoidably political in their application." - K.M. Fierke, University of St. Andrews, UK.

    "This book gives a unique insight into the ongoing battle of ideas and values as it is played out at the UN. Through interviews with Muslim diplomats, we are introduced to the value judgements and strategies that inform the OIC's attempt to curtail free speech. The book is insightful, and gives a thought provoking glimpse into how one religious actor challenges the liberal-democratic norms hegemony and questions its claim to universality. The book is topical and timely, and I suspect it will remain so for years." - Anne Stensvold, University of Oslo, Norway.

    "Heini Skorini’s highly original investigation is a major contribution to research on the contestation of norms in International Relations. This timely book reveals the profound global implications associated with discourses on human rights when these come to be defined in communitarian as opposed to cosmopolitan terms." - Vivienne Jabri, King’s College London, UK.

    "Skorini offers a lucid and detailed accounting of the struggle to define the contours of free expression as played out in the corridors of the United Nations. His exclusive personal interviews with key actors enriches the text and helps shape a comprehensive study that accounts for the roles played not only by intergovernmental institutions and states, but individual actors as well. The book is a valuable addition to the existing literature addressing defamation of religion, and offers important insights into one critical and still unresolved fault line in contemporary international human rights." - Robert C. Blitt, University of Tennessee College of Law, USA.