Evolution of the Idea of Human Rights and Duties in Islam. Ali A. Allawi Seminar at the Carr Center, Kennedy School, Harvard University. October 28, 2009. Introduction.
Ali A. Allawi
Seminar at the Carr Center, Kennedy School, Harvard University.
October 28, 2009
For the mass of believing Muslims throughout history, the Quran has always been the key text upon which Islamic life and civilization has been built. Muslims have found in the Quran numerous verses from which an understanding of human being’s position in the cosmos has been derived; as well as the enumeration and exposition of the rights and duties of human beings to their Creator, to each other and to themselves.
The document regulates the relationship between the various components of the Medinan society and confirms the principles of toleration, freedom of religion and rights granted to the tribes and to non-Muslims, in the context of building a civic order.
* [ This is of particular importance to Shia Muslims]
The Impact of modernity and imperial expansion on traditional understanding of human rights and obligations ( from the early 19th century to WW II)
Naini’s treatise introduced important qualifications to the principles of government of Islam viz. the idea of deputising a person to represent one’s political interests and limiting the duration of such deputation. Choosing one’s representative in an assembly of such people, with delegated, limited but renewable powers becomes a critical aspect of a government in Islam. At the same time, the people are recognised as politically sovereign in the absence of a divinely guided Imam.
1. A description of the evils of an unrepresentative and oppressive government
2.The promulgation of a constitution
3. The establishment of a parliament through elections.
4. Elaboration on the ideas of freedom, equality, supervision and transparency
( recognition of legal rights, a right to life, a right to personal security, freedom to travel and so on); the nature of social, economic and cultural rights; political rights ( such as freedom of assembly, freedom to form associations, a right to nationality); and finally group rights such as the right to self-determination, the right to resist the invader or foreign tutelage.
The Cairo Declaration however did not try to reconcile or resolve the differences in emphasis and context with the International Bill of Rights, leaving many OIC countries in the uncomfortable position of endorsing two often conflicting interpretations of human rights. Neither did it result in the establishment of a permanent office or secretariat to monitor human rights in OIC countries.
The Cairo Declaration was soon followed by a separate charter for the Arab world, the Arab Charter of Human Rights, which was issued by the Arab league in 1994. This charter seemed to defeat its purpose by granting governments the right to suspend the provisions of the charter “in the interest of national security, economic emergencies and threats to public order.”
A especially in official and governmental circles; as well as in the formal religious institutions of Islam. However, it has been adopted, in one variant or another, by the forces of extreme political Islam, that do not acknowledge the need for any separate body of law and policy that covers the area of human rights.second line of reasoning among a number of conservative Muslims is that the entire human rights movement, from the UDHR through to the conventions of 1966, and the gamut of official institutions and NGO’s that manage and supervise the human rights movement are linked to an on-going western onslaught to dominate the world and are no different in form and intent from other projects of political and cultural domination. The fact that Muslim countries mostly signed on to these conventions is of no significance to these critics, as the argument is often made that these governments were subservient to western interests in any case.