Roundtable Discussion on: Should human rights always outweigh religious rights?

Jun 14, 2015 - Roundtable
Date: Sunday, 14th June 2015
Time: 11AM – 130PM
Venue: Conference Room, The University off Nottingham, Level 2 Chulan Tower, Jalan Conlay, Kuala Lumpur

The question of conflict between the notion of human rights and traditional Islam goes much deeper than the realm of opinions. “Human rights” is a notion that is based on particular epistemic and philosophical underpinnings and presuppositions, and particular views about human beings. And human rights cannot be accepted without accepting these underpinnings and premises

In historical Islam, human beings are not the focal point of the discussion, but the focal point is God, and the Shari’a revolves around the axis of religion and divine duties. The preoccupation of traditional Islam is to identify and respect these duties, which are known as Shari’a precepts.

In dealing with the corollaries and phenomena of the modern age, such as human rights, historical Islam has offered a general, unchanging response: If these affairs really play a part in true human felicity and are intrinsically correct and valid, they have, without a doubt, been taken into account in advance and in full in Muslims’ divine duties and Shari’a precepts. And if they do not play a part in true human felicity, they are condemned to invalidity: all that is necessary has been taken into account in God’s eloquent wisdom, including people’s true rights.

But the fundamental problem lies in the possibility of discovering human beings’ true rights using human reason, without the assistance of the revelation and narration. Could human beings recognize their own true rights?

The acceptance of rational good and bad by the Mu’tazilites could have paved the way to an affirmative answer. On this basis, the reason is capable of independent understanding regarding the virtue of justice and the iniquity of injustice, and whatever reason rules, the Shari’a will also rule. Hence, whatever reason finds just should also be religiously obligatory, and whatever reason finds unjust should be religiously prohibited. Unfortunately, this rational approach has not found much reflection among the faithful.

And due to the conflicting views with regard to human rights and religious rights, there exists a call for a rational debate on this issue. Some have argued that one cannot protect religious rights if they are used as a reason to abuse human rights, human equalities, as so often they are. Hence the roundtable discussion seeks to bring this debate alive.

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