The United States told the United Nations on March 12, 2009, that “some Muslim countries were using the concept of religious defamation to justify curbs on freedom of speech and civil dissent.” During Thursday’s debate, Canada and the Czech Republic, speaking on behalf of the European Union, stressed the need to protect religious minorities, including in Muslim states. They both raised concern about the seven Baha’is detained for almost a year in Iran for suspected spying.
“It appears these individuals are being prosecuted solely on the basis of their faith. Canada calls on Iranian authorities to release the seven Baha’i individuals and eliminate all forms of discrimination against religious, ethnic, linguistic or other minorities,” the Canadian delegate said.
The seven, who could face the death sentence, have been denied access to lawyers, according to the two Western delegations. There was no immediate comment by Iran, whose judiciary said last month they could be indicted soon.
Baha’is regard their faith’s 19th-century founder as the latest in a line of prophets including Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Jesus and Mohammad. Iran’s Shi’ite religious establishment considers the faith a heretical offshoot of Islam.
Asma Jahangir, U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, said she was aware of “discriminatory practices” against Baha’i in both Iran and Egypt and was continuing to take action on the issue.
[Source: Javno.hr, Croatia: http://www.javno.com/en-world/us-says-some-states-curb-free-speech-for-religion_242229]