Sixty years ago, the UN composed a document setting out a Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It lists a set of basic principles, such as that everyone should be treated equally, torture and slavery are forbidden, and everyone has the right to life, liberty and security. It’s a lovely set of ideals, but it also has a set of enemies. To name just one: fundamentalists hate it. And, unfortunately, fundamentalists, especially Islamic fundamentalists, are quietly working behind the scenes to undermine it.
A commission from Islamic nations composed a new Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights, which they claim to be complementary, but looks more like a competing declaration. It is, of course, full of religious language, but also does sneaky things like change the declaration of equality of rights for all people to equality of dignity and obligations, and limit rights to those given within the shari’ah. This isn’t a declaration of human rights at all, but a devious demand for the imposition of religious tyranny.
Austin Dacey and Colin Koproske have dissected the UIDHR, and it certainly looks like a slimy proposal from the mullahs. They also carry out devious tactics, like providing English translations that water down the religious restrictions imposed in the original Arabic. Here’s one example:
English: Every person has the right to express his thoughts and beliefs so long as he remains
within the limits prescribed by the Law. No one, however, is entitled to disseminate falsehood
or to circulate reports that may outrage public decency, or to indulge in slander, innuendo, or
to cast defamatory aspersions on other persons.
Arabic: Everyone may think, believe and express his ideas and beliefs without interference or
opposition from anyone as long as he obeys the limits [hudud] set by the shari’ah. It is not
permitted to spread falsehood [al-batil] or disseminate that which involves encouraging
abomination [al-fahisha] or forsaking the Islamic community [takhdhil li’l-umma].
Those are slightly different, I think; one is general and secular, the other is prioritizing a set of specific limits defined by discriminatory religious law. Note that many Islamic fundamentalists believe that one is justified in killing apostates, and the Arabic version permits that to continue.
It is clear that if the ideals of the Universal Declaration are to be realized, nations and
peoples committed to human rights must take it upon themselves to reverse the present
trends toward the compartmentalization of rights and censorship of free speech. Therefore,
we join with many civil society organizations around the world in opposing the Islamic human
rights movement and denouncing the unnecessary, unwise, and immoral developments at
the United Nations Human Rights Council and the restrictions on freedom of expression being
entertained by the General Assembly.
The noble purpose of the International Bill of Rights and the United Nations is not to close any
one matter off from discussion within society, but to open all societies to free, public
discussion of every matter. Liberal rights are not guaranteed; we must constantly defend
them against those who would trade our liberties for security, order, control, or conformity. A
common standard of achievement, and not special cultural or religion rights, is the best
guarantor of equal freedom and mutual respect.
This new version is really nothing but an open attempt to protect the privilege of religion to violate human rights in the name of imaginary gods.