UNITED NATIONS — The head of the Arab League called Wednesday for the international community to criminalize blasphemy, warning that insults to religion pose a serious threat to global peace and security.
The comments put Nabil Elaraby squarely at odds with the United States and many of its Western allies, which are resolutely opposed to restrictions on freedom of expression.
Elaraby told the UN Security Council that if the West has criminalized acts that result in bodily harm, it must also criminalize acts that insult or cause offense to religions. He condemned the violence that erupted throughout the Muslim world in response to an anti-Islam film produced in the United States. But, he said that unless blasphemy laws are enacted and enforced, similar incidents could happen again.
‘‘While we fully reject such actions that are not justifiable in any way, we would like to ring the warning bell,’’ Elaraby said.
‘‘We are warning that offending religions, faiths, and symbols is indeed a matter that threatens in international peace and security now.
‘‘If the international community has criminalized bodily harm, it must just as well criminalize psychological and spiritual harm,’’ he said.
Individual members of the Arab League have issued similar calls.