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The Limitations on Critical Thinking on Religious Issues under Article 20 of ICCPR and its Relation to Freedom of Expression

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This article aims at examining the admissible scope of limitations on critical thinking on religious issues and the circumstances under which criticism of a religion may fall within the scope of Article 20 of the ICCPR. What does this imply in relation to freedom of expression, in particular artistic freedom? To what extent does the promotion of freedom of expression require States to punish advocacy of religious hatred which constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence? The main premise of the article is that the questions mentioned above should be seen in terms of the balance and complementarity of competing rights, namely, the right to freedom of religion and respect for human dignity of believers vis-à-vis the right to freedom of expression. This balance cannot invariably be set for all places, but should instead be maintained taking into account the historical experiences and local conditions. Furthermore, the article argues that the right to freedom of expression is not absolute and that international human rights law affirms certain restrictions on exercising this right. The question, however, of where to draw the boundaries between the right to freedom of expression and advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence can best be answered contextually and with due regard to, inter alia, local conditions, history, culture and political tensions.

Affiliations: 1: Bureau of Human Rights, Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs


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