HUMAN RIGHTS

HUMAN RIGHTS

“...recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world...” - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Background

On December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which lays out the inherent rights of all persons. Though not legally binding, the document serves as a bedrock of many national constitutions enshrining human rights and justice today. Creating a universal declaration was an important step in reinforcing and giving consensus on the rights of individuals but the values upon which the declaration was inspired can be traced back centuries.

To date, more than 150 countries have adopted this framework of human rights. But in the Middle East, many Muslim nations are governed, either loosely or strictly, by Islamic, or Sharia, law. A number of the rights outlined in the UDHR, and in most Western cultures today, conflict with some basic tenants of Islamic law. For these reasons, Saudi Arabia was among the countries that rejected the UDHR, arguing that it failed to take into consideration the cultural and religious context of non-Western societies. In an attempt to reconcile human rights and Islam, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation adopted the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam on August 5, 1990. Critics of the document argue that it undermines many of the parameters in the UDHR, allowing all the member states to abide by a set of human rights based on Sharia law. Instead of empowering the individual, the document relegates human rights to the discretion of governments.

Implications

On December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which lays out the inherent rights of all persons. Though not legally binding, the document serves as a bedrock of many national constitutions enshrining human rights and justice today. Creating a universal declaration was an important step in reinforcing and giving consensus on the rights of individuals but the values upon which the declaration was inspired can be traced back centuries.

To date, more than 150 countries have adopted this framework of human rights. But in the Middle East, many Muslim nations are governed, either loosely or strictly, by Islamic, or Sharia, law. A number of the rights outlined in the UDHR, and in most Western cultures today, conflict with some basic tenants of Islamic law. For these reasons, Saudi Arabia was among the countries that rejected the UDHR, arguing that it failed to take into consideration the cultural and religious context of non-Western societies. In an attempt to reconcile human rights and Islam, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation adopted the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam on August 5, 1990. Critics of the document argue that it undermines many of the parameters in the UDHR, allowing all the member states to abide by a set of human rights based on Sharia law. Instead of empowering the individual, the document relegates human rights to the discretion of governments.

Our Take

On December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which lays out the inherent rights of all persons. Though not legally binding, the document serves as a bedrock of many national constitutions enshrining human rights and justice today. Creating a universal declaration was an important step in reinforcing and giving consensus on the rights of individuals but the values upon which the declaration was inspired can be traced back centuries.

To date, more than 150 countries have adopted this framework of human rights. But in the Middle East, many Muslim nations are governed, either loosely or strictly, by Islamic, or Sharia, law. A number of the rights outlined in the UDHR, and in most Western cultures today, conflict with some basic tenants of Islamic law. For these reasons, Saudi Arabia was among the countries that rejected the UDHR, arguing that it failed to take into consideration the cultural and religious context of non-Western societies. In an attempt to reconcile human rights and Islam, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation adopted the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam on August 5, 1990. Critics of the document argue that it undermines many of the parameters in the UDHR, allowing all the member states to abide by a set of human rights based on Sharia law. Instead of empowering the individual, the document relegates human rights to the discretion of governments.

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