In the 21st century ‘human rights’ are fundamentally about ‘international human rights law’ and that this is largely a product of three main processes:
- the liberalization, secularization and democratization of western states from the 18th to 20th centuries;
- the post-2nd World War attempt to extend this experiment to the rest of the world through the processes of modernization, internationalization and globalization, and
- the attempt to find human-rights-sensitive interpretations of non-western value systems which would make this a more inclusive project than would otherwise have been the case if the second process alone applied.
One consequence of all this is that, although the ‘Muslim world’ was not fully involved in this project at its inception, it has increasingly felt obliged to engage with it as international human rights law has evolved to become the world’s only viable value system. This panel will explore the challenges and opportunities that this process faces.
Amongst other things this raises the question of the scope there might be for a distinctively Islamic, but nonetheless authentic, conception of human rights seeking to apply global values in a self-consciously Islamic manner.
The greatest friction in this field is not between Islam as a faith on the one hand, and international human rights law as a global value system on the other, but between international human rights law and conservative Islamic republics. States with Muslim majorities will find it easier to reach an appropriate accommodation with international human rights law the more democratic, law-governed and constitutionalized they are and these processes need not be identical to those experienced by the west.