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    On the 64th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), LSE Masters student Jonathan Russell explores the differences between the UDHR and the Organisation of Islam Cooperation’s Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam (CDHRI) and argues that the CDHRI limits the universal rights enshrined in the declaration six decades ago today.


    Most Muslim-majority countries including Egypt, Iran and Pakistan signed the UDHR in 1948, but crucially Saudi Arabia, where the King must comply with Shari’a and the Qur’an, did not sign the declaration, arguing that it violated Islamic law and criticising it for failing to take into consideration the cultural and religious context of non-Western countries. Saudi Arabian law is completely at odds with the UDHR as all citizens are required to be Muslim. Therefore, non-Muslims risk everything from arrest to torture and the death penalty for their beliefs. Women are prohibited from voting or driving a car. Likewise, Said Raja’i Khorasani, an Iranian official and representative to the UN claimed in 1982 that the UDHR was a “secular understanding of the Judeo-Christian tradition” and that it is impossible for Muslims to implement it without contravening Islamic law.[1] In accordance with this criticism, the then 45-member states of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC, now Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) adopted the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam (CDHRI) on 5 August 1990 which, despite its claim to be a general guidance for member states of the OIC and complement the UDHR, undermines many of the rights the UDHR is supposed to guarantee. When implemented, the CDHRI essentially removes the universality that underpins the UDHR, providing the 45 signatories and all of their citizens with a set of human rights based on an undefined interpretation of Shari’a law. The CDHRI clearly limits the rights enshrined in the UDHR and the International Covenants and cannot be viewed as complementary to the Universal Declaration.

  • Summary: 

    An atheist & a Muslim discuss the future of Islam. Fantastic segment with @SamHarrisOrg & @MaajidNawaz on ABC Australia. From about 11mins: "...Islamists who want to impose Islam on society and jihadists who use violence....have a plausible reading of scriptures...."

  • Summary: 

    Safe spaces have been impacting free speech on universities and I am glad that it was noted by our Prime Minister Theresa May. Safe spaces have manifested into this idea that “unsafe speech” or something that does not produce ‘good feelings’ should be banned and censored. Challenging ideas through free speech is what progressing civil rights is all about – no civil right was ever won through banning. If banned, it is only a matter of time until the same ideas re-emerge on other platforms such as YouTube, so it is neither liberal nor practical. It merely reflects a lack of respect for debate and dialogue.

  • Summary: 

    Every philosopher, prophet, scientist and great political and social reformer of their day has started as a heretic. Mohammad blasphemed against the polytheist social order of Mecca, Jesus against the monotheistic legalese of the Temple, and Moses before them against the idols of the Children of Israel. The right to heresy, to blasphemy, and to speak against prevalent dogma is as sacred and divine as any act of prayer. If our hard earned liberty, our desire to be irreverent of the old and to question the new, can be reduced to one, basic and indispensable right: it must be the right to free speech. Our freedom to speak represents our freedom to think, our freedom to think our ability to create, innovate and progress. You cannot kill an idea, but you can certainly kill a person for expressing it. For if liberty means anything at all, it is the right to express oneself without being killed for it.

  • Summary: 

    We know that just like most religions, Islam can be interpreted radically, and we know that most Muslims do not support these interpretations. Nevertheless, when we observe that a staggering 27% of British Muslims3 sympathize with the Charlie Hebdo attackers, who were responsible for the deaths of 12 in Paris in January this year, we must earnestly ask ourselves how these fundamentalist world views prevail within our often integrated and contiguous communities. It is sometimes argued that answering a poll in favor of stoning does not necessarily mean that one is willing to exact the punishment themselves3, i.e. “saying” isn’t necessarily “doing”. This distinction is not as significant as some people may think; at the end of the day, masses can provide the ideological validation that legitimizes the extremist’s actions. As most Western Christians have done, Muslims need to recognize that grey lines can be exploited by radicals and evil-doers. Therefore, we must do away with ambiguous and unrealistically wishful ideas of progressive Islamic law.

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