Islam and Human Rights: Tradition and Politics

By Ann Elizabeth Mayer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
An Assessment of Islamic Human Rights Schemes

Deviations from International Human Rights Principles

The Islamic human rights schemes devised by conservatives are being promoted in an environment in which international human rights are established as the authoritative, universal standard. Thus, it is natural to examine provisions of Islamic human rights schemes in relation to their international counterparts.

Although the Islamic human rights schemes impose many restraints and qualifications that conflict with the rights protections afforded by international law, they have been presented in formats and terminology designed to lead people to assume that they constitute valid counterparts of the rights norms set forth in international documents and the bills of rights in the constitutions of modern democracies. The similarity in formats and terminology naturally invites comparisons, but these inevitably reveal the inadequacies of the Islamic schemes according to the criteria of the international documents that they superficially emulate. In every case where the Islamic human rights provisions prove to have distinctive features, it turns out that they are ones designed to dilute, if not altogether eliminate, the corresponding civil and political rights found in international law.

The authors evince little real sympathy for the ideals of individual rights and freedoms. Instead they accord priority to rationalizing governmental repression, protecting and promoting social cohesion, and perpetuating traditional hierarchies in society, which means discriminatory treatment of women and non-Muslims. They call for obedience to authority and give political leaders complete leeway in determining the scope of permissible freedoms. Political authorities are allowed to curb rights and freedoms by reference to vague Islamic criteria, which the authors do not bother to define. They assert the supremacy of

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