HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE WORLD'S
RELIGIONS: CHRISTIANITY, ISLAM,
AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
DAVID LITTLE, ABDULAZIZ SACHEDINA,
AND JOHN KELSAY
Adamantia Pollis and Peter Schwab conclude their essay, "Human Rights: A Western Construct with Limited Applicability," by expressing a familiar objection to ethnocentrism.
Unfortunately not only do human rights as set forth in the Universal Declaration
reveal a strong Western bias, but there has been a tendency to view human rights
ahistorically and in isolation from their social, political, and economic milieu. 1
This criticism is frequently applied to statements of rights concerning private property, vacations with pay, the status of women, marriage arrangements, forms of punishment, and some particular political and civil guarantees, such as voting procedures, that are contained in various "internationally recognized" human rights documents. The complaint is that these are so many manifestations of a highly parochial cultural and historical experience that, at certain points, neither does have nor ought to have anything definitive to say to peoples with other experience and traditions.
The charge is a serious and challenging one. Human rights advocates need to face it squarely and respond to it with precision and care. Are all the rights contained in the documents equally binding upon all peoples everywhere? Or, are some rights (more than others) subject to national and cultural discretion?