Czechia withholds support for UNHRC resolution on Koran burning

Czechia said it condemns hate speech but raised concerns regarding specific aspects of the resolution's text. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 13.07.2023 11:39:00 (updated on 13.07.2023) Reading time: 1 minute

Czechia, along with the United States, Britain, and France, chose not to support a resolution against the burning of the Koran during today's United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) vote. Foreign Ministry spokesman Daniel Drake explained that while Czechia condemns such acts, there were additional concerns with the resolution's wording.

The resolution, which condemns Koran burning and religious hate speech, was adopted by the UNHRC today. Western countries, including the U.S., Britain, France, and the Czech Republic, voted against the document, emphasizing the importance of freedom of speech alongside their condemnation of religious hatred, according to the AFP agency.

Drake clarified that Czechia does not approve of burning religious books but raised concerns regarding specific aspects of the resolution's text.

The resolution was prompted by a debate initiated by Pakistan on behalf of several Organisation of Islamic Cooperation countries. The discussion was sparked by an incident in late June where an Iraqi refugee burned several pages of the Koran near a mosque in Stockholm, which was not the first such incident in Sweden. While Sweden and other Western countries have condemned such acts, they have also defended the principle of freedom of speech.

The resolution condemns all acts of religious hatred, including the "desecration of the sacred Koran," and calls for the prevention and prosecution of such acts. Of the voting UNHRC countries, 28 were in favor, 12 opposed, and seven abstained.

Drake highlighted the problematic elements of the resolution, as seen from Czechia's perspective. First, there is a public reference to European states, which implies that burning the Koran inherently incites hatred.

The use of the adjective "holy" before the word "Koran" also poses an issue, considering the UN's secular and neutral nature. Finally, the resolution's call for the criminalization of desecrating the Koran or other holy books represents an unwelcome push for legislative changes.

"Another unacceptable formulation is the call for desecration of the Koran or holy books to be generally criminalized, i.e., a call for a change in national legislation," Drake said.

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