26 October 2016

Islam and human rights: Clash or compatibility?

Some proponents of human rights are deeply sceptical of Islam (and religion in general for that matter). They argue that the two are inherently incompatible. To be sure, there are plenty of examples of Islam being used to legitimise violations of human rights today: Think of Saudi Arabia’s use of whipping and other inhuman punishments, Pakistan’s blasphemy legislation, or the many gender discriminatory laws in other Muslim-majority countries.

But this is not all there is to say about Islam and human rights. If we listen to some of the many Muslim voices in contemporary human rights debates, a much more nuanced picture emerges. There are at least four different positions among Muslim state actors, civil society organisations and intellectuals today.

Some flat out reject the whole concept of human rights. They consider human rights to be a Western invention, grown out of Western history and based on Western values of secularism and individualism – and as such irrelevant to the Muslim world. ”The ideal of ’human rights’ (…) is not a universal value common to all human beings regardless of religious belief,” the British Hizb Ut- Tahrir writes in one of its pamphlets. [London School of Economics] Read more