This time it is the global reaction to a YouTube video that disparages Islam's prophet Muhammad that is sure to roil the meeting of the UN General Assembly.

Muslim leaders have vowed to discuss the offensive video from their UN platforms, sowing concern among free-speech activists of a fresh push toward an international law that would criminalise blasphemy. Human rights groups and Western democracies resisted such a law for years and thought they had finally quashed the matter after convincing enough nations that repressive regimes used blasphemy laws to imprison or execute dissidents.

''I expect that we'll regress to where we were a couple of years ago,'' said Courtney Radsch, program manager for the Global Freedom of Expression Campaign at the non-profit group Freedom House.

''Human rights are not about protecting religions; human rights are to protect humans,'' she said. ''Who is going to be the decision-maker on deciding what blasphemy is?''

At one end of the spectrum is France, where a magazine on Wednesday published cartoons of Muhammad as a naked, cowering man to underscore a point that even the most offensive expression should be protected.

At the other end of the spectrum is the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, who disappointed many free-speech activists last week by suggesting limitations to freedom of speech when it was ''used to provoke or humiliate''.