Inside the UN Human Rights Council

One hopes that the issues tabled at the Human Rights Council will also be under the scrutiny of the UN

Inside the UN Human Rights Council for the 21st session
Raheel Raza
On 17 September 2012 09:21

I am in Geneva attending the 21st session of the Human Rights Council. How and why I got here is an interesting journey.

Three years ago I was in Oxford attending a Muslim Reform Conference. I noticed a distinguished grey haired man in the audience making copious notes. At the end of the conference, this man made some very valuable suggestions on how liberal Muslims might be able to face off the Islamists and get their voices heard. Fascinated by his research, knowledge, and contacts, I introduced myself and discovered his name is Roy Brown with the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU).

Among his other accolades, Roy Brown is responsible for helping document Europe’s secular charter. He is founder of World Population Foundation (WPF) which promotes sexual and reproductive health and rights, seen as key to improving the quality of life of women.

From 2004 until 2010 Roy also served as IHEU Main Representative at the UN, Geneva, working with the UN Commission on Human Rights and its successor, the Human Rights Council.

He prepared written submissions and spoke at the plenary sessions of the Commission and Council on issues as diverse as Female Genital Mutilation, the plight of the Dalits in India, slavery in North Africa, witchcraft and witch hunts in Africa, freedom of expression, the concept of defamation of religion, the incompatibility of the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam with the Universal Declaration, and the role of the Holy See in helping child abusers escape justice and its failure to honour its obligations under the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.

We got chatting and he mentioned that he lives in Geneva where IHEU is accredited with the UNHRC but they hardly get a word in edgewise because as soon as a non-Muslim critiques anything to do with Islam, the 57 member Organization of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) flexes its hefty muscles and stops them from speaking, claiming Islamophobia.

I suggested I would be happy to oblige and put my neck online to take the job of critiquing Islamists and especially the Salafis for destroying my faith. As the cliché goes – that was history and today I am attending my third session at the UNHRC.

Personally it’s been an amazing journey of learning and exposing the agendas of the Islamists and OIC. I’m delighted to be connected to IHEU because they are secular and committed to exposing human rights violations globally including the Muslim world.

In past sessions I have urged the UNHRC to declare honour killings a universal criminal offence, identified Sharia as a threat to the West, asked Pakistan to repeal the Blasphemy law, and tapped the OIC about their stance on religious tolerance reminding them that they need to learn to be tolerant in OIC states before they can start complaining of in-tolerance against Muslims in the West.

I also learned that the OIC is basically at the UN only to slam the US and Israel at every chance they get.

Since none of us can address each and every problem, we pick what impacts us the most. This session we tackled three important issues, our statements being made on behalf of the IHEU and the Centre for Inquiry.

On religious tolerance, we critiqued Saudi extremism and spoke about OIC support for such atrocities. We also made a joint statement on forced and child marriages – copies of all statement will be posted on the IHEU website this week. The UNHRC has recognized that forced marriage is a form of contemporary slavery and there were many sessions about this topic.

Our third intervention was about the ban on women’s education in Iran and we urged the UNHRC to look into this problem seriously.

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