Human Rights and Islam Liz Martin Maayan Vodovis Zehra Sadaf Matthew Davis John Collins
History of Human Rights • Nuremburg War Crimes Trials 1945-1946 Prosecuted for crimes against humanity • United Nations: The preamble of the charter of the UN “reaffirms faith in fundamental human rights.” • Universal Declaration of Human Rights: December 10, 1948 • International Bill of Human Rights: Completed in 1966 and is composed of Universal Declaration, Covenant of civil and political rights and Covenant of economic, social and cultural rights.
International Bill of Human Rights • Problem with IBHR- it is a resolution and not a treaty. Many nations signed, but no nation is required to adhere to or enforce these rights • Equality of rights without discrimination • Life, liberty, security of persons • Protection against cruel and unusual punishment • Recognition as a person before law AND equal protection of law • Freedom of thought, conscience, religion, opinion, expression, press, assembly and association • Health care and social services • Education • Self determination
Definition of Human Rights • Legal vs. Moral rights • Legal: claims, privileges, powers, immunities- any right protected by law • Moral: any right claimed or justified by reference to some set of moral rules • Two English definitions of the word ‘right’ • Right vs. Wrong • Right as an entitlement. • Western Definition: Rights one has simply because one is human. They are held by all humans- they are universal rights
Cultural Relativism • Normative Hegemony: One standard; makes distinction between human rights and human dignity • Weak Cultural Relativism: One standard, but concessions allowed for various interpretations • Strong Cultural Relativism: Cannot have one standard of rights because cultures and values are too varied.
Libya- 1945 Malaysia- 1957 Morocco- 1956 Pakistan- 1947 Syria- 1945 Muslim Nations who signed IBHR • Afghanistan- 1946 • Iran– 1945 • Iraq- 1945 • Lebanon- 1945 • Sudan - 1956 • Should Muslim nations be held to Western definitions of Human Rights, or should interpretations of cultures and values have more significance when determining human rights? • If these nations signed the IBHR, should they then be held accountable to same standards of rights as other nations?
Human Rights and Islam In the Middle East
Freedom of Expression: Authors can be charged for writing books that are deemed offensive to Islam. Offensive language has arisen in cases between Muslims and Christians (articles 160 and 161 in the Penal Code for insulting Islam). Laws and Politics: People have been suspected and imprisoned for alleged memberships in banned groups such as the al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group) and al-Gihad (Holy Struggle). Since 1967 emergency laws in Egypt have given authorities extended powers to arrest and detain suspects without trial for prolonged periods. Civilian defendants can be sent to court(s) where procedures have been less than fair according to international standards. Prison and Court Sentencing: Security forces mistreated and tortured prisoners. Some detainees died in custody due to poor conditions, lack of medical care, and in few cases due to torture. Some police officers have been charged for the beating and deaths of prisoners. Certain practices of punishment have been banned from prisons. Egyptian courts have sentenced many people to death. Most death sentences were imposed for ordinary criminal offences. EGYPT • Recent Report: • Pleas for Egyptian President Mubarak to stop the deportation of 645 people scheduled to return to a high death risk in Sudan. • International law forbids the return of refugees to places of persecution and requires states to ensure children not be separated from their families. • Demonstrators (refugees) protested for various grounds of poor living conditions in Egypt and “lack of lasting solutions to their plight.”
Freedom of Expression: There is no independent press. Newspapers and media are entirely funded by the royal family. There is a list of topics banned from publication. Violations are punished by prison time and fines. There are several independent licensed Internet service providers, but the government seeks to monitor and restrict Web access in the country. Punishment: Capital Punishment has been applied for crimes of murder, rape, armed robbery, drug smuggling, sodomy and sorcery. Decapitation usually takes place in public squares while blindfolded, shackled, and tranquilized. Courts still impose corporal punishment, such as amputation for robbery, and floggings for lesser crimes such as “sexual deviance and drunkenness.” Religious Freedom: Government actively restricts religious freedom and practices (except Wahhabi interpretation) Officially, non-Muslims are free to worship privately, in reality this is not always adhered to. Religious minorities are harassed or arrested for peaceful practice of their faith. Women in Saudi Society: Discrimination is still prevalent in regards to family, education, employment and the justice system. A modesty code of dress is imposed based on religious law. Still not allowed to drive/maintain a license. Saudi Arabia “It is absurd to impose on an individual or a society rights that are alien to its beliefs or principles” –Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz
Syria • Freedom of Expression • Freedom of expression, association, and assembly are limited in law and practice. • Some minorities (such as Kurds) continue to be denied basic rights. • Local media and Internet access remain state controlled. • However, levels of expressive freedom have begun to grow in small measures. Private Internet cafes have been allowed to open in Damascus. And the Syrian Telecommunications Establishment have blocked only Israeli materials and Syrian opposition Web-sites. • Domestic Laws and Prison • There are long-standing emergency laws that do not allow for any civilian protection against arbitrary arrest and torture. • Infamous Tadmor prison in Palmyran desert remains off-limits to all independent observers. • There was a scandal in 1980 when 1100 unarmed prisoners were massacred in Tadmor. • International Issues • Many Syrians live in political exile abroad. Many of which have been arrested and forced to leave because they carried forged passports. Syria does not allow Syrian exiles to obtain a Syrian passport (making them stateless). • Many foreigners have been imprisoned in Syria. Syrian government has purposefully not allowed their deportation. In the past, Jordan, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority have issued a general amnesty for all political prisoners.
How it relates to Islam… • The Middle East is a religious center in the World. For Christians, Jews and Muslims. The city of Jerusalem exemplifies this concentrated and diverse religious region. • Most Middle Eastern (Islamic) countries derive some of their laws from religious traditions or Islamic law (Sharia). • Especially regarding: • Laws towards Women (esp. in Saudi Arabia). • Laws enforcing capital punishment (Hudud Crimes) • Some laws are not directly linked to Islamic law, but are established to defend Islamic religious practices, and or create an absolute Islamic society. • Governments try and diminish the freedom of expression, so to impede anti-Islam rhetoric • Most of the other inhumane laws in these countries are due to despotic regimes. • The Root: much of the law comes from ancient Arabic tradition, rather than Islamic custom. • Not all of the laws in these nations are agreed upon. There are many divisions in Islam, some citizens support while others oppose these laws.
Children Accused of committing criminal offenses are routinely tortured by police Long periods of detention without trials 91% of the 2700 Juvenile in ’98 waited for trials for months Harsh and overcrowded facilities Routinely subjected to various forms of torture or ill-treatment Lack of recreational opportunities Rights of Children
Contemporary Slavery • Mostly children and many adults are denied the right to negotiate terms of employment • Harsh working conditions with long hours of work • Lack of proper tools and training
Violence against women • Domestic violence towards women • Horrifying conditions of women’s prison, lack of protection from physical and sexual abuse • Hundreds of Bangladeshi women in similar situation in Pakistani prisons • About 150 women being smuggled in to the country for prostitutions of other domestic servitude each month
Ms Mai was gang raped, allegedly on the orders of a village council because of a misdemeanor attributed to her younger brother.
Honor killings occur when men kill their female relatives for activities in which the female dishonors the family reputation for perceived misuse of her sexuality Islamic leaders and scholars condemn the practice and deny that it is based on religious doctrine They explain that it is a pre-Islamic, tribal custom stemming from society's interest in keeping strict control over familial power structures but many It has been reported in Bangladesh, Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, Sweden, Turkey, Uganda and the United Kingdom According to the United Nations Population Fund estimates as many as 5000 females being killed each year Honor Killings
Malaysia & Indonesia Human Rights Perspectives
Indonesia • Demographics • Population ~238,500,000 • 88% Muslim • Largest Muslim Majority Country • History • Former Dutch Colony / Colonial Legacy • Sukarno (1945-1967) and Suharto (1967-1998) • Democracy?
Human Rights • Aceh and Papua • Indigenous Minorities • Muslim on Muslim Abuses • Freedom of Religion • Shar’ia Law • Recently instituted in Aceh • Only applies to Muslims
Malaysia • Demographics • Population ~23,500,000 • 58% Malaysian, 24% Chinese • History • Former British Colony / Colonial Legacy • Federal Constitutional Monarchy
Human Rights • Ethno-Religious Discrimination • Must be Muslim to be Malay • Malay / Chinese Tensions • Freedom of Religion • Conversion of Minors • Apostasy • Shar’ia Law
Comparisons & Contrasts • Postcolonial Legacy • Shar’ia vs. Civil Law • Inherent Contradictions of Rights
The West & Islam A human rights perspective
Human Rights Abuses • Specifically looking at abuses against Muslims in non-Islamic states • For the sake of argument, we accept any denial of religious or civil freedom as an abuse of HR. • Questions to ask: • At what points do security concerns override one’s individual rights? • At what point should religion of any type take a backseat to secular national interests or freedoms.
United States • “Special interest” detainees • 1,200 non-citizens held on suspicion of Al Qaeda connection. • Held under immigration laws • Secret court proceedings • “Unnecessarily restrictive conditions” • Guantanamo Bay detainees • Geneva does not apply • Hold as long as the U.S. wishes • 2002 ruling: courts do not have jurisdiction to hear complaints from “aliens held by the U.S. outside of sovereign territory” • Enemy Combatants • No more designation of “Prisoner of War”
United States The U.S. has taken a hardened approach in dealing with Muslims suspected of international terror. Questions: • Is the secretive approach necessary? • What of the anti-Geneva arguments? Are any of them valid? • Torture and “aggressive interrogation techniques” – is there a difference? • Culturally, can we differentiate between our treatment of Muslims living in our country versus those with “enemy combatant” status?
France • Headscarf legislation • “containing the forces of Islamic theocracy by outlawing the most innocuous manifestation of Islamic anti-secularism” • Ban of all public religious symbols in state schools – ex: large crosses, Sikh turbans, Muslim headscarves • Effective Sept. 2004: In five months, 39 Muslim girls and 3 Sikh boys were expelled
France France is obviously suffering blowback from it’s colonial escapades in the early late 19th century. Questions: • Is supporting across the board secularism is French public schools really a bad thing? • Racial tensions between French nationals and Arab immigrants are rising – what agency do immigrants have in assimilating into their new homes? • Can we consider this a human rights abuse?
Denmark The Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy began after editorial cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad were published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten on September 30, 2005. Danish Muslim organizations staged protests in response. As the controversy has grown, some or all of the cartoons have been reprinted in newspapers in more than fifty other countries, leading to violent protests, particularly in the Islamic world. Critics claim that the cartoons are culturally insulting, Islamophobic, blasphemous, and intended to humiliate a marginalized Danish minority. Supporters of the cartoons claim they illustrate an important issue and their publication exercises the right of free speech. They also claim that there are similar cartoons about other religions, arguing that Islam and its followers have not been targeted in a discriminatory way. Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen has described the controversy as Denmark's worst international crisis since World War II.
Denmark Again we have a clash of civilizations in which one group finds it’s right to religion being harassed, if not abused, by another’s right to free speech. • Is being offended a violation of your human rights? • Should the U.N. pass a resolution banning attacks on religious beliefs? • What is more important, freedom of religion or freedom of speech? • Do publishers of the cartoons in Jordan and Yemen deserve to be arrested? • Is Malaysia correct in declaring it a legal offense to “publish, product, import, circulate, or possess” the cartoons?
The cartoon controversy as well as “human rights abuses” against Muslims in France and the United States, should be, “understood against the backdrop of rising Western prejudice and suspicion against Muslims, and an associated sense of persecution among Muslims in many parts of the world.” • The United States needs to temper it’s treatment of international prisoners, ensuring all necessary accommodations are made for proper religious worship. • Additionally, the U.S. should move along tribunals, commissions, and trials of detainees that should have been held long ago. For lack of a better term, it’s time to “put up or shut up.” • For all of our perceived misdeeds, the U.S. possesses a much more egalitarian mindset than that of France and Denmark. Our history as a “melting pot” helps us avert many of the violent cultural clashes that have occurred in Europe.
France France’s problems are complex and result from a French and Arab populace that refuses to assimilate with each other. Racism and xenophobia abound. The country must find ways to solve these deep cultural rifts, and simply banning religious headgear will not do it. The country must decide whether modernity and secularism will reign in public society, or will religion be allowed a place as well.
Denmark Denmark’s tribulations are, like France’s, symptoms of a larger cultural problem in the country. However, as Human Rights Watch points out, we can “reject the disrespectful and prejudiced attitudes reflected in the cartoons, but affirm that, under the right of freedom of expression, governments are not entitled to suppress speech simply because it is offensive or disrespectful of religion.” The much larger human rights abuse would be to censor the cartoons or anything else that might offend Muslims.