Advancing Human Rights
Even though the relatively recent concept of “human rights” is not native to traditional religious texts such as the Qur’an, the pervasiveness of human rights as a subject of discussion among Islamic traditionalists suggests that even the most conservative thinkers modify their discourse to incorporate compelling extrareligious ideas. In part because Maududi, Qutb, and Soroush have accepted the relevance of human rights to Muslims and share the common subject of Islam, they are able to engage in dialogue with each other across time and space concerning the appropriate role of religion in human rights.1 Variances in geography, history, and the Sunni and Shi’ite traditions expand the possibilities within Islam for relating to human rights. Moreover, their similarities and differences with regard to Islam help to fuel not just intra-Islamic discussions about the role of religion and human rights. Human rights have emerged as part of dialogue both within and outside of the Islamic scholarly community.
The discussions by Soroush on democracy, toleration, and human rights stand out as the most compatible with current Western notions of human rights. Although Soroush is critical of the liberties that Americans and Europeans take with regard to their freedom, he nonetheless espouses a method of seeking truth that meshes easily with Western standards of freedom. His belief that the ultimate truth is found through open discussion and consideration of multiple points of view, even those seen as derogatory toward one’s own, is echoed in American First Amendment protections of freedom of speech, belief, and assembly. Soroush’s openness toward religious dialogue in the public square perhaps even exceeds