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Norway would like to thank the Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Religion or Belief for a timely and comprehensive report.
Let me begin by saying that Norway shares the deep concern of the Special Rapporteur as he receives reports of surveillance, intimidation, harassment, torture and even murder of individuals who peacefully manifest their thoughts, religion or belief.
In this report we welcome the Special Rapporteur’s focus on the matter of blasphemy legislation. Attacks – perceived or real – on religion challenge many people’s traditions and values. We must, however, remind ourselves that human rights protect human beings. Religions or religious dogmas are not protected. They are – as we know – devolving over time, subject to human interpretation.
Countries – and communities - must recognize the rights of all persons to freedom of expression and to the free manifestation of religion or belief, including criticism. We are concerned with the many reports of a shrinking space for free debate and public demonstration of dissent. Furthermore, we fully agree with the Special Rapporteur that although states may need to react in the event of escalating tension and conflict in such cases, international law compels states to pursue a restrained approach.
Finally, we also appreciate the reference in the report to the important role of faith leaders, particularly in situations of conflict and disagreement. In my own country – as in many other countries - religious leaders meet on a regular basis in order to promote respect and understanding among religious and life stance communities through dialogue. When religious leaders communicate and understand each other, they are better able to calm frustration and resolve anger among their followers in cases when freedom of expression challenges religious symbols and traditions. We wish to encourage the Special Rapporteur to continue his efforts to encourage the inclusion of women faith leaders in such work.