Morsi, in his debut speech to the U.N. General Assembly, said Egypt intended to lead the way in resolving Syria’s civil war, pressing the cause of Palestinians and defusing the threat of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.
He also said that though his country now embraces democracy and human rights, it would not accept the categorical approach to free speech that Obama urged at theUnited NationsÂ and would not tolerate insults to religion.
“Egypt respects freedom of expression,” he said, but “one that is not used to incite hatred against anyone. One that is not directed toward one specific religion or cult.”
He called on the U.N. to consider international action to crack down on speech that defames religions.
Morsi’s comments addressed a disagreement between Muslim and Western leaders that has surfaced this month since an anti-Islamic video made in the U.S. ignited protests and set off deadly attacks in nearly two dozen countries in the Muslim world. Muslim leaders have demanded that Western governments crack down on such expression, while Western governments have insisted that they must allow full free speech rights.
Yemen President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, in his remarks, also rejected protection of speech that criticizes religion. “There should be limits for the freedom of expression, especially if such freedom blasphemes the beliefs of nations and defames their figures,” Hadi said.
Obama, in his U.N. address Tuesday, pressed Muslim countries to accept the Western approach.
World leaders have been studying Morsi closely since the longtime Muslim Brotherhood member became president in June. The Obama administration has been concerned that Morsi might take a more assertive stand onÂ IsraelÂ than his predecessor,Â Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted last year.
Morsi said his “first issue” would be to press the cause of the Palestinians at a time when peace negotiations with a Palestinian state appear dead in the water. He also called for a regional conference this year on nuclear proliferation in the Mideast, and appeared to scold both Israel andÂ Iran, condemning countries that don’t join the international nonproliferation treaty and signatories that don’t follow its rules.
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