Egyptian Bishop Calls on UN to End Blasphemy in Region

A prominent religious leader in Egypt has publically stated that he supports efforts from both Christians and Muslims to soften and even remove blasphemy laws that are strictly enforced in some countries throughout the region.

The Anglican Bishop of Egypt, Dr. Mouneer Anis, published the statement that was written to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in which he praises the efforts made by Islamic member states to ban blasphemy. He also supports the move to provide an environment free from religious persecution.

The letter comes in response to an anti-Muslim video that was posted on YouTube depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a negative light and the subsequent attacks on the U.S. embassy in Cairo and embassies across the region.

That attacks were carried out by Islamic militants and left several Americans dead including the American ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.

Contained in the statement, which was published on Sept. 16, Egyptian State Information Service revealed that Anis had told the U.N. Secretary General that he should "issue a declaration that prohibits blasphemy."

Anis, in the statement, explained that to impose a ban on blasphemy would go a long way for the prevention of unfounded persecution of religious minorities, but that it would not limit freedom of speech.

"[It would] not run counter to freedom of speech, but it prevents using this right to insult religious sanctities. We believe that mutual respect is the only way for peaceful coexistence," the statement read.

"The positive role that the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the full respect for the freedom to seek, receive and impart information can play in strengthening democracy and combating religious intolerance," the statement continued.

The Church of England has not yet been able to confirm with Anis or the Diocese of Egypt if the letter was a personal plea or an official statement on behalf of the CofE. Either way, it endorses a previous resolution adopted by the U.N. in December of 2011 that aims to limit religious discrimination and persecution.

Some political figures argue that the most effective way to move forward is for people to come together in a positive fashion and to drown out the negative words with good intentions.

"The best way to treat offensive speech is by people either ignoring it or combating it with good arguments and good speech that overwhelms it," Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State, previously stated.

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