An international Islamic organization headed by Qatar-based preacher Sheikh Yusuf Al Qaradawi has renewed its demands for the United Nations to outlaw “contempt” of religions.
The International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) has also urged western nations to protect those who engage in peaceful protests against the publication of images of the Prophet Muhammad.
Internationally, there have been several demonstrations following last week’s publication of a cartoon of the Prophet by French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which was attacked earlier this month.
Many Muslims find the caricatures offensive, and Qatar was among the countries that condemned the publication, saying “freedom of expression does not mean insulting others.”
In its statement, the IUMS asked Muslim countries “to submit a global law draft criminalizing defamation of religions and the prophets and the holy sites of all” to the UN, and for the international organization to enact such a law to ensure “peaceful coexistence between nations.”
The Union also called for Western countries “to provide full protection to the Muslims living in their country, whether they are citizens or residents or visitors.”
The call comes as a Bahraini MP is pushing for a similar move to create draft legislation to be put to the UN, according to a local newspaper there.
The latest demand by the IUMS reopens an issue that Arab nations have raised several times in recent years.
Qatar first floated a proposal to outlaw religious insults in 2012, following a global furor over a Youtube video denigrating the Prophet Muhammad.
At the time, the plan was to present the draft regionally and to the IUMS. The law was then to be presented to the UN’s International Telecommunication Union, but the idea was opposed by many free speech advocates.
In 2013, Qatar again presented a draft law to other Arab League countries that proposed to criminalize the defamation of all religions in their nations.
The legislation would have made it legal for countries to prosecute individuals who defame, deride or denigrate religions or their prophets.
Ebrahim Mousa Al Hitmi, Qatar’s justice ministry assistant undersecretary for legal affairs, was quoted at the time as saying that the law would have extended countries’ existing penal codes to allow states to prosecute offenders even if they were not resident in the country.
Bahrain draft law
In Bahrain, a politician is apparently making similar attempts to introduce the draft legislation to the United Nations.
According to Gulf Daily News, MP Adel Al Asoomi said he has been in contact with colleagues in the Arab Parliament to help him put together a draft law outlawing mockery of any historical religious figures.
“The UN has laws against anti-Semitism and discrimination,” he said as he appeared in parliament yesterday.
“Now is the time for an international law against degrading prophets, messengers of God or any other historic religious figure.”
He said the legislation is expected to be presented to the Bahraini parliament within a month, before being referred to other Arab nations for review, and then on to the UN.