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Human rights experts condemn distorted vision of Muslims in the film “Fitna” and call for dialogue and vigilance

Geneva, 28 March 2008: - - Three UN Special Rapporteurs today issued a joint statement criticizing the provocative nature of a film depicting an extremely distorted vision of Muslims, and urging a calm and measured response to its release.

The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Doudou Diène; the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Asma Jahangir; and the Special Rapporteur for the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Ambeyi Ligabo, issued the following statement:

“We condemn the tone and content of the online film by Dutch Member of Parliament, Mr. Geert Wilders, which was released on the Internet yesterday. The film ‘Fitna’ illustrates an increasing pattern that associates Muslims exclusively with violence and terrorism. It is crucial that efforts be made by Governments to stop this pattern and take urgent measures to prevent incitement to racial and religious hatred which is a major threat to peace and social cohesion.

“While on the one hand, freedom of expression is a fundamental human right that must be respected, it does not extend to include incitement to racial or religious hatred which is itself clearly a violation of human rights. Public expressions that paint adherents of a particular religion as a threat to peace or global stability are irresponsible.

“We would like to make a special call for vigilance and tolerance. Following the publication of the controversial caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in September 2005, we urged all parties to refrain from any form of violence and to avoid fuelling hatred.* Furthermore, we encouraged States to promote the interrelated and indivisible nature of human rights and freedoms, and to advocate the use of legal remedies. We also called on them to pursue a peaceful dialogue on matters which go to the heart of all multicultural societies. We reiterate those calls now.

“We recognize the quick and balanced reaction of the Dutch Government to the release of this film in which it rejects the equation of Islam with violence and notes that the ‘vast majority of Muslims reject extremism and violence.’

“As Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations Human Rights Council, we call upon all national and international human rights bodies and mechanisms to urgently initiate a debate on the best way to ensure the complementarity and balance of the fundamental rights of freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression as enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We believe that enhanced efforts to promote inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue may help to restrain any possible violent reaction.”

* See press release of 8 February 2006 at www.ohchr.org