Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam
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The Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (CDHRI) is a declaration of the member states of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference adopted in Cairo in 1990, which provides an overview on the Islamic perspective on human rights, and affirms Islamic Shari'ah as its sole source. CDHRI declares its purpose to be "general guidance for Member States [of the OIC] in the Field of human rights". This declaration is usually seen as an Islamic response to the post-World War II United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of 1948.
Predominantly Muslim countries, such as Sudan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, frequently criticized the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for its perceived failure to take into account the cultural and religious context of non-Western countries. In 1981, the post-revolutionary Iranian representative to the United Nations Said Rajaie-Khorassani articulated the position of his country regarding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by saying that the UDHR was "a secular understanding of the Judeo-Christian tradition", which could not be implemented by Muslims without trespassing the Islamic law. The CDHRI was adopted in 1990 by members of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and in 1992 the CDHRI was presented to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, where it was strongly condemned by the International Commission of Jurists.
The Declaration starts by forbidding (in terms of basic human dignity and basic obligations and responsibilities) " discrimination on the basis of race, colour, language, belief, sex, religion, political affiliation, social status or other considerations". It continues on to proclaim the sanctity of life, and declares the "preservation of human life" as "a duty prescribed by the Shariah". In addition the CDHRI guarantees "non-belligerents such as old men, women and children", "wounded and the sick" and "prisoners of war", the right to be fed, sheltered and access to safety and medical treatment in times of war.
The CDHRI gives men and women the "right to marriage" regardless of their race, colour or nationality, but not religion. In addition, women are given "equal human dignity", "own rights to enjoy", "duties to perform", "own civil entity", "financial independence", and the "right to retain her name and lineage", though not equal rights in general. The Declaration makes the husband responsible for the social and financial protection of the family. The Declaration gives both parents the rights over their children, and makes it incumbent upon both of them to protect the child, before and after birth. The Declaration also entitles every family the "right to privacy". It also forbids the demolition, confiscation and eviction of any family from their residence. Furthermore, should the family get separated in times of war, it is the responsibility of the State to "arrange visits or reunions of families".
Article 10 of the Declaration states: "Islam is the religion of unspoiled nature. It is prohibited to exercise any form of compulsion on man or to exploit his poverty or ignorance in order to convert him to another religion or to atheism."
The Declaration protects each individual from arbitrary arrest, torture, maltreatment and/or indignity. Furthermore, no individual is to be used for medical or scientific experiments. It also prohibits the taking of hostages of any individual "for any purpose" whatsoever. Moreover, the CDHRI guarantees the presumption of innocence; guilt is only to be proven through a trial in "which he [the defendant] shall be given all the guarantees of defence". The Declaration also forbids the promulgation of "emergency laws that would provide executive authority for such actions". Art. 19 stipulates that there are no other crimes or punishments than those mentioned in the Sharia, which include corporal punishment (whippings, amputations) and capital punishment. The right to hold public office can only be exercised in accordance with the Sharia, which forbids Muslims to submit to the rule of non-Muslims.
The Declaration also emphasizes the "full right to freedom and self-determination", and its opposition to enslavement, oppression, exploitation and colonialism. The CDHRI declares the rule of law, establishing equality and justice for all. The CDHRI also guarantees all individuals the "right to participate, directly or indirectly in the administration of his country's public affairs". The CDHRI also forbids any abuse of authority 'subject to the Islamic Shari'ah.'
Article 22(a) of the Declaration states that "Everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Shari’ah." 22(b) states that "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 Shari’ah." 22(c) states: "Information is a vital necessity to society. It may not be exploited or misused in such a way as may violate sanctities and the dignity of Prophets, undermine moral and ethical values or disintegrate, corrupt or harm society or weaken its faith." 22(d) states "It is not permitted to arouse nationalistic or doctrinal hatred or to do anything that may be an incitement to any form of racial discrimination."
Though using a universalist language akin to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "quite a number of [its] features express an Islamic particularity." The preamble is mostly religious rhetoric, and the particulars of the CDHRI contain numerous references to the Quran, sharia and aspects of the Islamic faith that appear on no other similar international list. The CDHRI concludes in article 24 and 25 that all rights and freedoms mentioned are subject to the Islamic Shariah, which is the declaration's sole source. The CDHRI declares "true religion" to be the "guarantee for enhancing such dignity along the path to human integrity". It also places the responsibility for defending those rights upon the entire Ummah.
The CDHRI has been criticized for being implemented by a set of states with widely disparate religious policies and practices who had "a shared interest in disarming international criticism of their domestic human rights record."
Article 24 of the declaration states: "All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Sharia." Article 19 also says: "There shall be no crime or punishment except as provided for in the Sharia."
The CDHRI has been criticised for failing to guarantee freedom of religion, in particular the right of each and every individual to change their religion, as a "fundamental and nonderogable right".
In a joint written statement submitted by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), a non-governmental organization in special consultative status, the Association for World Education (AWE) and the Association of World Citizens (AWC), a number of concerns were raised that the CDHRI limits human rights, religious freedom, and freedom of expression. The statement concludes, "The Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam is clearly an attempt to limit the rights enshrined in the UDHR and the International Covenants. It can in no sense be seen as complementary to the Universal Declaration."
The Centre for Inquiry in September 2008 in an article to the United Nations writes that the CDHRI "undermines equality of persons and freedom of expression and religion by imposing restrictions on nearly every human right based on Islamic Sharia law."
Rhona Smith writes that because the CDHRI's reference to Shariah implies an inherent degree of superiority of men.
Adama Dieng, a member of the International Commission of Jurists, criticised the CDHRI. He argued that the declaration gravely threatens the inter-cultural consensus on which the international human rights instruments are based; that it introduces intolerable discrimination against non-Muslims and women. He further argued that the CDHRI reveals a deliberately restrictive character in regard to certain fundamental rights and freedoms, to the point that certain essential provisions are below the legal standards in effect in a number of Muslim countries; it uses the cover of the "Islamic Shari'a (Law)" to justify the legitimacy of practices, such as corporal punishment, which attack the integrity and dignity of the human being.
- Brems, E (2001). "Islamic Declarations of Human Rights". Human rights: universality and diversity: Volume 66 of International studies in human rights. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. pp. 241–84. ISBN 90-411-1618-4.
- National Review Online, Human Rights and Human Wrongs, David G. Littman, January 19, 2003, retrieved 30 Mai, 2012
- "Universal Human Rights and 'Human Rights in Islam'". 'Midstream'.
- There shall be no crime or punishment except as provided for in the Schari’a.
- Smith (2003), p.195
- Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam,Aug. 5, 1990, U.N. GAOR, World Conf. on Hum. Rts., 4th Sess., Agenda Item 5, U.N. Doc. A/CONF.157/PC/62/Add.18 (1993)
- Kazemi, F (2002). "Perspectives on Islam and Civil Society". In Hashmi SH. Islamic Political Ethics: Civil Society, Pluralism and Conflict. Princeton University Press. pp. 50. ISBN 0-691-11310-6.
- "The Cairo Declaration and the Universality of Human Rights".
- "CFI Defends Freedom of Expression at the U.N. Human Rights Council".
- Rhona, Smith. "Textbook on International Human Rights", Oxford University Press, 2003, ISBN 1-84174-301-1, p.195
- David Littman, Universal Human Rights and "Human Rights in Islam", Dhimmitude (Article published in the journal Midstream (New York) February/March 1999)
- Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam (English text)
- Universal Human Rights and "Human Rights in Islam"