Human Rights: Other Views – Part I
- The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) itself has become a prime motivator and enforcer of the rejection of human rights.
- The other charters of human rights are to be found exclusively in the Muslim world. Anything that falls within Islamic shari’a law is a human right; anything that does not fall within shari’a is not a human right.
- “For us the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is nothing but a collection of mumbo-jumbo by disciples of Satan”. — ‘Ali Khamene’i, Iran’s current Supreme Leader.
- “The underlying thesis in all the Islamic human rights schemes is that the rights afforded in international law are too generous and only become acceptable when they are subjected to Islamic restrictions”. — Ann Elizabeth Mayer, Islam and Human Rights: Tradition and Politics.
The history of human rights, albeit fragmented, is a long and often honourable expression of religious and civic endeavour. The scriptures of most religions refer to the ways in which we should treat our fellow man, from the Bible in antiquity to the broadly liberal Baha’i scriptures written in Persian and Arabic in the late nineteenth century. Religious precepts have served to protect human beings from arbitrary mistreatment in Hinduism, Buddhism, and other faiths.
Modern human rights declarations and legislation developed in a secular context, above all as an expression of democratic values, and informed by Judaeo-Christian ethics. The earliest formulations of secular human rights legislation are to be found in the 1789 French Declaration on the Rights of Man and the Citizen and the 1791 US Constitution, the first 10 amendments of which form the Bill of Rights.
It was not until after the Second World War, however, that an even wider formulation of human rights came into being. Like the French and American declarations, these fresh formulas had much to do with the notion of individual rights: rights that were lodged in the political and legislative strategies of modern democratic states. Prior to that, rights tended to be located in communities, with individuals being subject to the laws and pressures of the tribe – as in the limitation of rights for Jews and Christians within Muslim societies, or for Jews in Europe, notably in ghettoes. This new construction of rights — through religious or ethnic identity — has, for some decades now, found expression in democratic states in “multiculturalism”.