The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies CIHRS and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights EIPR have jointly made an oral intervention before the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The intervention made by Mr. Hossam Bahgat, Director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights referred to the controversy stemming from some forms of expression which are found to be offensive to the religious feelings or beliefs of others. In this context, Mr. Bahgat expressed condemnation of incidents of “deliberate stereotyping and stigmatization” of certain minorities or groups, which lead to the incitement of discrimination, hostility or violence against them. These incidents” Mr. Bahgat asserted, “are not conducive to the creation of truly pluralist, divers, tolerant and inclusive societies”. However, the intervention also expressed great concern regarding the growing trend by governments to capitalize on “contempt of religions” to impose further restrictions on freedom of expression.
The intervention referred in this instance to the abuse of broad and unqualified legal provisions on defamation or contempt of religions within the Arab region to restrict, punish or criminalize critical academic research that is not in line with mainstream interpretations of religions, to censor forms of artistic expression, or even to justify official or societal bigotry against religious minorities.
The intervention maintained that “any permissible limitations on the exercise of freedom of expression must meet the standards set out by international human rights law, and that such limitations must not be used to nullify the right itself by banning critical, disturbing or offensive speech”.
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