June 23, 2008

Human Rights Violations: Blaming Islam

People love to show a divide between Islam and Democracy. So they perpetuate the myth of Islam’s incompatibility with human rights. They blindly assert that Islam and human rights are antithetical.

In the Islamic tradition, the establishment of justice and warding off evil takes precedence and accords paramount concern in all circumstances. This concept is a recurring theme in chapter 4 of the Quran, “O you who believe, stand up for justice, even if it is againt yourselves, your family and kinfolk.”Islamic human rights urges Muslims and non-Muslims to endeavor the institution of Right to Life, the Right to Safety of Life, Respect for Women, the Right to a basic standard of Life, the Individuals Right to Freedom, the Right to Justice and last but certainly not least the Equality of Human Beings.

Textbooks in the West often list human rights as being established with the following:

-the Magna Carta Libertatum of Britain (1215)

-the Act of Habeas Corpus (1679)

-the Bill of Rights (1689)

-the American Declaration of Independence (1776)

the French Declaration of the Human Rights of Man and the Citizen (1789)-Universal Declaration of Human Rights embraced by the UN (1948)-the Charter of Rights & Freedoms (1982)

The Eurocentric and North American centric view; that history begins with itself, negates the very equality of human beings that it claims to initiate. It ignores the histories and contributions of other peoples in the world. As is often done as a result of colonial legacy, the history of the ‘rest’ of the world, begins after the West made contact.

Many of the human rights documents listed above contain ingredients that are also found in Islamic sources from the 7th century and later, such as the presumption of innocence and religious freedom. Another example is that American and Islamic legal doctrines oppose coerced confessions in criminal convictions.As much as proponents in the West look down on other societies and claim to hold the reputation of ‘moral leader of the free world’, a notable Kenyan social anthropologist, Ali Mazuit Bingamton University remarks,”If Islam in the twentieth century has not always been the most fertile ground for democracy, it has also been less fertile ground for the greatest evils of the 20th century: Nazism, fascism, communism, and genocide… Muslims are often criticized for not producing the best, but they are not congratulated for having standards of human behaviour that avert the worst. There are no Muslim equivalents of Nazi concentration camps, American racial lynching, apartheid under the Dutch Reformed Church, Japanese racism before the Second World War or genocide under Stalin and Pol Pot”In fact, large-scale wars of the twentieth century were largely due to secular reasons. These wars claimed the lives of over a hundred million people. More recently in the 21st century, the infamous torture in the Abu Ghareeb prison in Iraq and the unfortunate treatment of ‘detainees’ at Guantanamo Bay, in violation of the Geneva Convention, are examples of American retreat from the human rights it established in 1776.Muslims the world over are not exempt from human rights violations either. The Muslim world has, for most of the twentieth century, suffered a human rights catastrophe. Torture, honour killings, gang rape, brutality, election fraud, censorship and infringements on religious freedom are found in Muslim nations. It is important for all to realize that just as Bush administration is against the moral fibre of the United States of America, the lack of human rights in the Muslim world today are in fact travesties of Islam and they have to be unequivocally condemned by all Muslims.Despite what those who benefit from dividing the world teach: human rights violations in the Muslim world are in spite of Islam and not as a result of it.Here’s what you can do for human rights in your community:

1. Support already existing human rights, advocacy and civil liberties organizations such as Amnesty International, CAIR-CAN and Youth for Human Rights International

2. Put your skills and talents to work in a human rights organization i.e. become a volunteer/staff of the organization

3. Write letters to elected officials of your province and country stating that you would like to see the Charter of Rights and Freedoms go into full use. Speak out against human rights violations of others abroad and here at home. Encourage others to do the same.

4. Educate others by word of mouth about human rights abuses in the world today. Organize seminars with a human rights organization in your community.

5. Establish scholarships and awards to people in your community who promote human rights

6. Increase our awareness and that of the Muslim community of local issues and how they affect the community at large to increase our participation and visibility individually and as a group i.e. learn about your local politician and get involved in issues that affect the community.


Syed Reza has a BA in Political Science and Religions from the University of Toronto. As National Coordinator of Young Muslims Canada, he participated in advising the Roots of Youth Violence Committee commissioned by the government of Ontario. He has also successfully spearheaded environmental initiatives such as Waste Diversion 2010, participation in Earth Hour and Adopt a Park with the youth organization.To get in touch with him please contact [email protected]

[Article first published in AVER Magazine]

Comments (1)

  • Mohyuddin Qadri November 15, 2009 Reply »

    Assalam Alaykum,
    The article says about the current situation of how the west portrays Islam in public. You guys are doing a good job of showing the true and bright face of Islam.

    May Allah and Nabi E Kareem (S.A.W) blessings be with you,

    Your Islamic Brother,
    Mohyuddin Qadri
    (India – Mumbai)

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