Promoting Islam as a defender of human rights is laden with
difficulties. Advocates of human rights will readily point out
numerous humanitarian failures carried out in the name of Islam. In
The Rights of God, Irene Oh looks at human rights and
Islam as a religious issue rather than a political or legal one and
draws on three revered Islamic scholars to offer a broad range of
perspectives that challenge our assumptions about the role of
religion in human rights.
The theoretical shift from the conception of morality based in
natural duty and law to one of rights has created tensions that
hinder a fruitful exchange between human rights theorists and
religious thinkers. Does the static identification of human rights
with lists of specific rights, such as those found in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, make sense given the cultural,
historical, and religious diversity of the societies in which these
rights are to be respected and implemented? In examining human
rights issues of the contemporary Islamic world, Oh illustrates how
the value of religious scholarship cannot be overestimated.
Oh analyzes the commentaries of Abul A'la Maududi, Sayyid Qutb, and
Abdolkarim Soroush-all prominent and often controversial Islamic
thinkers-on the topics of political participation, religious
toleration, and freedom of conscience. While Maududi and Qutb
represent traditional Islam, and Soroush a more reform and
Western-friendly approach, all three contend that Islam is indeed
capable of accommodating and advocating human rights.
Whereas disentangling politics and culture from religion is never
easy, Oh shows that the attempt must be made in order to understand
and overcome the historical obstacles that prevent genuine dialogue
from taking place across religious and cultural boundaries.
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