Clinton: Islam, West Can Agree on Tolerance

By MATTHEW LEE | July 15, 2011 | 11:29 AM EDT

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton winks during the fourth Libya Contact Group Meeting in Istanbul, Friday, July 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Saul Loeb, Pool)

ISTANBUL (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says she's hopeful that a religious tolerance agreement between the West and Islamic countries will end efforts to criminalize blasphemy that threaten freedom of expression.

Clinton said Friday in Turkey that an initiative by the U.S., the European Union and the Organization of the Islamic Conference will promote religious freedom without compromising free speech.

Many Muslim nations have laws that punish perceived insults to Islam. As a way to rationalize those laws, those countries have long sought U.N. action condemning the defamation of religion.

The U.S. and others were concerned that such a step could stifle legitimate debate. Earlier this year, the U.S. brokered an agreement that removed defamation language from a U.N. resolution and focused instead on ending religious discrimination.