"For the first time in more than a decade, the U.N. General Assembly on Monday condemned religious intolerance without urging states to outlaw "defamation of religions," an appeal critics say opened the door to abusive "blasphemy" laws.
The call on countries to prohibit "defamation" had been included in a non-binding resolution on combating religious intolerance passed annually by the 193-nation assembly.
The versions passed in previous years had enjoyed increasingly less support in assembly votes due to Western and Latin American opposition to the "defamation" idea. The resolution barely received a majority of yes votes in 2010.
The New York-based rights group Human Rights First welcomed the resolution prior to its adoption, describing the new version as "a decisive break from the polarizing focus in the past on defamation of religions."
"Governments should now focus on concrete measures to fight religiously motivated violence, discrimination and other forms of intolerance, while recognizing the importance of freedom of expression," Human Rights First's Tad Stahnke said.