The term ‘Human Rights’ is used by many, also by Muslims. But it doesn’t necessarily imply that the users of the term mean the same thing. This is important to note as we discuss freedom of speech and religion. There are two major global entities with their respective declarations on human rights: The United Nations (UN) and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).
United Nations was founded after the 2nd World War. The UN declaration on human rights is based on Judeo-Christian ethics and was established in 1948. OIC was founded in 1969, has 57 member states and represents every fifth person on the globe. OIC has developed and adopted its own declaration on human rights, partly in opposition the UN version, stating that Islamic human rights are different. These Muslim countries have signed up to the UN declaration but pay little attention to it in practice, and adhere rather to the Islamic version, called the Cairo Declaration.
The Cairo Declaration states that all 57 Muslim countries should abide by the declaration. But it further clarifies that the declaration applies to the “ummah”, i.e. all Muslims all over the world, even in non-Muslim countries. This is noteworthy and remarkable. It is the norm of international treaties and conventions that nations sign up and commit themselves to abide by them. But the Cairo Declaration indirectly nullifies national borders and laws by asserting that the sharia based interpretation of human rights applies to all Muslims regardless of citizenship and country of residence. That means that Islamic laws (and the Cairo Declaration) supersede national laws, in every case and in every place.
The declaration states again and again - in the preamble, in various articles and in the conclusion - that everything is subject to sharia and should be interpreted in light of the Koran and Islamic law. Thus it may mention freedom and rights, but they are restricted according to the Koran and Islamic law.
Article 10 in the Cairo Declaration deals with religious freedom and asserts that there mustn’t be any compulsion in religion – but of course subject to Sharia. But it is a well known fact that those who leave Islam are at risk and quite a few are punished, even by death. Article 18 in the UN Declaration deals with religious freedom and has three main components: The right to have, express and change your faith. But in countries where Islam has a major influence there are definite limitations regarding expressing your beliefs and changing your religion; the latter especially for Muslims. In general Christians are allowed to convert to Islam, but it is illegal and dangerous for a Muslim to leave Islam.
This is what the Cairo Declaration says about freedom of speech: “Everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Shariah. Everyone shall have the right to advocate what is right, and propagate what is good, and warn against what is wrong and evil according to the norms of Islamic Shariah.” Thus freedom of speech is interpreted and limited by sharia.
Many surveys measuring various freedoms shows – again and again – that citizens in Muslim countries suffer oppression. They lack basic human rights and freedoms when it comes to politics, media, religion, gender equality, and so forth. One may speak of human rights, but Islamic versions of the same lead to the opposite, as a result of the supremacy of sharia law in Muslim faith and practice globally. This also includes freedom of speech and religion. Thus we need to be aware of similar or same terms that may be filled with different contents.Mats.Tunehag@varldenidag.se