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The Domestic Politics of International Religious Defamation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 February 2013

Peter S. Henne*
Georgetown University
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Peter S. Henne, Georgetown University, Department of Government, 37th and O Street, Washington, DC 20057. E-mail:


From 2005 to 2010, the Organization for Islamic Cooperation attempted to ban the defamation of religion internationally through a series of United Nations resolutions. Although many opposed the resolutions for their potential effects on political rights, numerous non-Muslim states supported them. What explains the dynamic of this support, especially the resolutions' religious nature and significant non-Muslim backing? I argue that non-democratic states that restrict religion have an incentive to take action on contentious international issues — such as the religious defamation resolutions — to gain support from religious groups and justify their restrictive policies, even though Muslim religious defamation concerns and developing country solidarity also contributed to support. I demonstrate this through a mixed-method study, with a quantitative analysis of states' votes on the resolutions and case studies of Belarus and Pakistan. The article contributes to the study of religion and politics, as well as studies on the dynamics of United Nations voting.

Copyright © Religion and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association 2013 

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