Last week the European Union, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Arab League and the Commission of the African Union released an absurd and dangerous joint statement, expressing ‘the importance of respecting all prophets’, and ‘strongly committing to take further measures’ to work for ‘full respect of religion’.

The joint statement was inspired by the violent reactions to a recent film about Islam, but it focuses mostly on expressing respect for all religions and all prophets (but not for atheism), it includes only a passing reference to freedom of expression, and it waits until its final paragraphs before getting around to condemning the attacks on embassies during which people were killed.

The joint statement claims to be a message of peace and tolerance, but it is actually a message of exclusion and intolerance of atheism and reason, with its narrow and undemocratic focus on ‘what joins us together across regions and religions’ being endorsed by the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs.

By doing this, the joint statement violates the European Union’s obligation to respect equally the status under national law of both religious associations and philosophical and non-confessional organisations, as expressed in Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

The European Union is also working to promote ‘full respect of religion’ along with Islamic States that routinely use apostasy and blasphemy laws to persecute innocent people. The European Union should focus on having these people released from prison and on having blasphemy laws repealed wherever they exist.