On July 15, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Istanbul promoted a new U.S.-backed international agreement to protect freedom of speech and religion, an accord described by her department as a “landmark” change.
“These are fundamental freedoms that belong to all people in all places,” Clinton said, “and they are certainly essential to democracy.”
Also, the State Department’s school for Foreign Service officers rolled out a new course last month on how diplomats can practice “religious engagement.”
And the National Security Council is touting a new partnership with the White House Office on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which represents a “renewed focus on the intersection of religion and foreign policy across the United States government,” faith-based director Joshua DuBoi wrote in a July 11 blog post.
The agreement Clinton touted in Istanbul aims to replace what has been the prevailing international response to acts considered defamatory against Islam, such as Quran burnings and inflammatory cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
Muslim-majority countries, working through the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference, have often introduced and passed resolutions in the U.N.’s Human Rights Council and its predecessor banning speech that defames religion.
In March, however, the U.S. and other Western nations convinced the OIC to back a plan that instead prescribes education, public debate and interfaith dialogue to counteract religious intolerance.