Leave Allah out

I re-read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights this morning, to confirm that it’s as secular as I remembered. It is. This is crucial.

If you look at the preamble of the UDHR, you will see that there is no mention of any religion. All religions and cultures are assumed to be equal…But in the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (hereafter called the Cairo Declaration), we can detect a completely different tone. Right from the first paragraph of the preamble, the Cairo Declaration confidently asserts the superiority of Islam by referring to the Islamic Ummah as the “best nation”…This is no implication, unlike in the UDHR, that all cultures and religions are equal. Indeed the rest of humanity is supposedly confused and in need of guidance from the “best nation”.

And the guidance tells it that the only rights it can have are those that ‘the Shariah’ allows. Which is not a generous package.

Take note the word “men” instead of “human beings” was used. In Islam, men and women are seen to have different obligations and responsibilities. Men of course can have four wives but women cannot have four husbands. In the UDHR, gender-neutral terms such as “everyone” or “human beings” are always used.

David Littman takes a close look.

Although traditions, cultures and religious background may be different, human nature is universally the same. The aim of those who drafted and approved the UDHR was precisely to affirm this universal human identity, separating it from particular and religious contexts, which introduce and sanctify differences and discriminations. Any attempt to bring in cultural and religious particularisms would simply remove the specifically universal character of the UDHR. Neither the UIDHR nor the CDHRI is universal, because both are conditional on Islamic law which non-Muslims do not accept. The UDHR places social and political norms in a secular framework, separating the political from the religious. In contrast, both the UIDHR and the CDHRI introduce into the political sphere an Islamic religious criterion, which imposes an absolute decisive and divine primacy over the political and legal spheres.

To be continued.

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