Advisor for Economic and Social Affairs
New York, New York
July 25, 2023
The United States strongly condemns acts of hate and continues to underscore the harms they can cause to individuals. We have expressed our deep concern with the June 28 desecration of the Holy Quran, and we repeat those sentiments again today. The United States categorically calls out anti-Muslim hatred wherever it occurs. As President Biden stated in May, “confront[ing]… Islamophobia is a priority for my Administration. … Standing up against anti-Muslim hate is essential to who we are as a country founded on freedom and justice for all.”
We find the act of desecrating any religious texts to be abhorrent, and we stand in solidarity with our OIC partners – and with all people wishing to live their lives in accordance with their religious identities or beliefs without discrimination.
Twenty-five years ago, President Clinton signed the International Religious Freedom Act into law. At that time, he noted that freedom of religion was a bedrock American belief, saying, and I quote, “When we promote religious freedom, we also promote freedom of expression, conscience, and association, and other human rights.”
We are proud of our leadership role in promoting the values established in Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18, which carefully navigates the relationship between freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression and was negotiated at senior levels with members of the OIC and adopted by consensus in 2011. Prior to that watershed moment, some perceived these two rights to be in conflict. 16/18 made clear that they are, in fact, complementary. This has been, and remains, our approach to this issue, and we hope the international community can continue to reaffirm this approach.
Regarding the resolution being considered today, we appreciate Morocco’s leadership and recognize the critical importance of this topic. While we are supporting the resolution, we continue to have concerns that it does not represent the range of views in this body on countering hate speech in line with respect for human rights.
First, we regret that this UNGA resolution cited language from UN Security Council resolution 2686 (2023) that includes “acts of extremism” without a clear link to “violence.”
Human rights and fundamental freedoms are under assault, including by governments seeking to infringe on those rights under the cover of “combatting extremism.” It is an utmost U.S. priority that we do not grant license to states to repress dissenting views under the pretext of “countering extremism” or maintaining peace or societal harmony. For years, the UN has appropriately focused on addressing violent extremism, including in the Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism and existing commitments Member States have made to prevent and counter violent extremism. Opinions and beliefs must be protected, even if characterized as “extreme.”
With regard to OP2, we note that the term “hate speech” generally encompasses a wide breadth of speech, most of which is protected by freedom of expression. By expressing support for countering hate speech, we are in no way supporting efforts to criminalize such speech. Any effort to counter hate speech must be carried out in a manner consistent with respect for human rights, including freedom of expression.
The United States has concerns with the approach the UN Alliance of Civilizations has taken with respect to freedom of expression, including during the Forum held in Fez in November 2022. In particular, the Fez Declaration purports to recognize “moderation” as a societal value. Unfortunately, many governments touting the virtues of moderation have used the term as a justification to bar dissent and place undue legal limits on expression, and in particular religious expression.
Finally, the United States joins others in disassociating from PP13 given that the amendment to correct the language did not pass.
Despite these concerns, the United States will join consensus today on this resolution, as we remain committed to working with the international community to promote tolerance and respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms. Thank you.