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The UN's Platform for Racism

Rarely in the history of world politics have so many nations with so little interest in democracy pledged to uphold so many democratic ideals.

12:00 AM, Apr 22, 2009 • By JOSEPH LOCONTE
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Another dismaying feature of the UN conference is the determination of Islamic regimes to link racism to the "defamation of religion." Members of the Organization for Islamic Conference, through various UN venues, have tried to intimidate Western states into muzzling criticism of Islam by limiting free speech. They succeeded recently in the General Assembly and in the Human Rights Council, which have approved anti-defamation resolutions. Paul Marshall of the Hudson Institute believes the OIC is engaged in "a long campaign . . . to outlaw anything that its members claim is religiously offensive, often including any criticism of their own conduct." Member states were in full campaign mode this week. Though they failed to insert defamation of religion language in the final document, they succeeded in equating the problems of "Islamophobia," and "anti-Arabism" with anti-Semitism.

Fear and discrimination against Muslims, especially in Europe, is not an insignificant issue. The fact that the vast majority of terrorist attacks are committed by religious radicals who invoke Islam deepens the problem. But racial and religious hatreds saturate the Arab and Muslim world. They manifest themselves when Arab regimes such as Sudan commit genocide against black Africans with hardly a word of criticism at a global conference to combat racism. They rise like a noxious vapor when the Iranian president slanders Israel as "the most cruel and repressive racist regime"--and is warmly endorsed by Muslim delegates in attendance.

Perhaps the most offensive aspect of Ahmadinejad's speech was his use of religious rhetoric to sanctify anti-Semitic bigotry. Like a drunken minister scolding his congregation about the evils of alcohol, the Iranian leader sermonized about the solution to racial hatred. "The key to solving the problem of racism is a return to spiritual and moral values," he intoned, "and finally the inclination to worship God Almighty." In the next breath, with Israel clearly in view, he condemned the way in which "evil's power took shape" and "expanded its realm of power."

Many would argue that racism, especially in the form of anti-Semitism, is a symptom of the depth of human sin. Historian Paul Johnson has called it "a disease of the mind." It is also a sickness of the soul, and its remedy involves more than an intellectual conversion. "In the opening chapter of the Hebrew Bible, God declares that he has made man in His own image: to teach us that one who is not in my image is still in God's image," writes Jonathan Sacks, Britain's chief rabbi. "That is the most powerful antidote to hate ever created."

Despite all the pledges and proclamations by UN delegates at Geneva, that ancient insight has been missing, and the battle against racism will suffer because of it.

Joseph Loconte is a senior research fellow at The King's College in New York City and a frequent contributor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD.