Clinton Advocates for Reform in Religious Tolerance Laws

A proposal organized by the United States, European Union, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) will foster religious freedom without compromising freedom of speech, according to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The Secretary of State, speaking at an interfaith conference in Turkey last Friday said, “Together we have begun to overcome the false divide that pits religious sensitivities against freedom of expression and we are pursuing a new approach."

She continued, "These are fundamental freedoms that belong to all people in all places and they are certainly essential to democracy."

Clinton, along with the secretary general of the OIC, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, announced plans to discuss how to deal with the delicate issue of connecting freedom of speech with religious tolerance.

“We cannot and must not ignore the implications of hate speech and incitement of discrimination and violence," Ihsanoglu told the Associated Press. "Our cause, which stems from out genuine concerns, should not be interpreted as calls for restriction on freedom."

Currently, Muslim nations have laws that discipline suspected insults to the Islamic faith. These countries have continually pushed for the U.N. to institute laws condemning the defamation of religion.

The U.S. previously proposed an agreement that removed defamation language from a U.N. resolution and concentrated on ending religious discrimination.

The current resolution calls for countries to encourage tolerance through education, interfaith dialogue and public debate. It would also prohibit discrimination, profiling and hate crimes. The proposal also makes room for speech topics that might be controversial, unless the subject could possibly incite violence.

Clinton said that specialists will be brought in to suggest the best way to initiate the proposed change.

"The United States intends to invite relevant experts from around the world to the first of what we hope will be a series of meetings to discuss best practices," Clinton states.