Human Rights Council 53rd Session.
URGENT DEBATE on public acts of incitement to religious hatred
in European and other countries
Statement delivered by Ambassador Tine Mørch Smith
Permanent Representative of Norway
Check against delivery
11 July 2023
Norway strongly disapproves of any action or statement aimed at creating religious polarization. These acts are not new, and they occur not only between religions, but also within religions.
We do not want those behind such actions to succeed. Therefore, we encourage everyone to ensure that any reactions to these deplorable acts are measured and expressed peacefully.
Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and a cornerstone of democracy. Norway will uphold and defend the right to free expression, also when the government disagrees with these expressions.
As citizens in a pluralistic society, we all know that words, images, and expressions matter. Laws alone cannot guide us through this landscape; only moral decisions (by individuals, neighbours, friends, colleagues, editors and ministers) can do so.
In my country, the Penal Code protects persons against hate speech based on their religion or belief, but it does not protect religions or ideologies against criticism. Banning religious criticism may lead to censorship on religious issues, to the detriment of religious minorities.
However, also expressions that are not unlawful can be unacceptable. In such cases, a particular responsibility rests with the government to speak out clearly against them. And we encourage all actors, including religious leaders, to use their freedom of expression to push back on such lamentable actions in a peaceful manner.
The Norwegian government is working for mutual respect, tolerance and cooperation between religious groups and people. We want Muslims to be safe in Norway. This is why we have made an action plan to prevent hatred and discrimination against Muslims.