by Majid Rafizadeh
Recently, I met a Syrian Salafist while speaking to Leaders of Democracy Fellows about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Islam and human rights violations in Syria.
The individual who lives in Syria, and who seems to sympathize with Jubhat Al- Nusrah (Al-Nusrah Front), drew several distinctions between Islamic objectives of the global Jihad movement, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and Jubhat Al-Nusrah.
The argument was that these powerful movements in Syria and beyond attempt to create an Islamic state anchored in Shari’a law, the teachings of Islam, Muhammad, and Allah. But the difference between Jubhat Al-Nusrah and ISIL, according to the person, was that the mission of the Jubhat Al-Nusrah aims at only establishing Islamic social order and an Islamic state in Syria. Whether this mission spreads to other countries is not a part of their objectives, though other countries can adopt this political Islamic platform if they desire.
On the other hand, the objectives and mission of ISIL is a return to the Caliphate system and establishment of an Islamic state throughout the region. In other words, creating an Islamic state and Shari’a law-based government in Syria or in Iraq is not sufficient and will not fulfill the desire of God, Muhammad, and Islamic teachings.
Currently, we can contend that Syrian oppositional groups are functionally dominated by Jihadists from around the world, other Islamist groups, and external groups attempting to create an Islamic order and pursue their own ideological goals.
Regarding these Islamic movements, my major question is on where human rights stand for them, regardless of the minor or significant differences between these Islamist oppositional groups.
Recently, a seven-year-old boy died because fighters believed him to be an apostate. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a 15-year-old Syrian boy was also killed in the northern city of Aleppo in front of his parents because the Islamist groups believed what the boy said was heretical.
Some of the proponents of Islam and Islamic laws would point out that the ideology and religion of Islam sit at the heart of human rights standards and are totally compatible with the modern notion of human rights.
But when I delve into the issue, and going into the nuances and details of the question, they seem to dodge answering. How can Islam be compatible with a modern notion of human rights and gender equality, when social and legal laws of Allah’s words in Quran, depict women as inferior to men in every aspect?
Article three of the universal declaration of human rights, states that “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” But in Islamic countries, a person who rejects and abandons Islam has no right to life. According to Islam, unbelievers commit the gravest sin in Islam.
Article five states that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Cases of stoning, lashings, and other violent acts are rampant in Islamic countries.
How can Islam be compatible with human rights when, according to Muslims and the Quran, Allah specifically states in the Quran that a woman’s testimony in a court of law is considered half the value to that of a man?
“And call to witness, from among your men, two witnesses. And if two men be not found then a man and two women.” [Qur'an (2:282)]
A Muslim told me that scientific data shows women’s logical and speaking neurological center in brain are at the same place, and as a result, they are more forgetful than men! And so, this is why God made their testimony worth half. I was totally confounded and baffled by this ungrounded logic.
How can Islam be compatible with human rights when according to Muslims and the Quran, Allah states that women inherit less than men in several instances?
They ask thee for a legal decision. Say: Allah directs about those who leave no descendants or ascendants as heirs. If it is a man that dies, leaving a sister but no child, she shall have half the inheritance: If a woman, who left no child, Her brother takes her inheritance: If there are two sisters, they shall have two-thirds of the inheritance: if there are brothers and sisters, the male having twice the share of the female. Thus doth Allah make clear to you , lest ye err. And Allah hath knowledge of all things. (Quran 4:176)All Muslims are expected to follow and implement the rules of Islamic inheritance clearly stated in the Quran, verbatim words of God, accordingly.
In addition, how can the ideology of Islam be in line with human rights when abandoning Islam triggers punishments, including execution? Or does the law that allows a man to marry four wives respect the rights of women? Do these Islamic laws comply with the article one of the universal declaration of human rights that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”?
The aforementioned laws reveal how women are restricted and seen as inferior. While men can marry any women from any other religion, Muslim women are not allowed to marry a non-Muslim.
There are also the rights of an accused person to a fair trial, which is mentioned in the Universal Declaration of Human rights. While a women’s testimony is worth half, non-Muslims are not permitted to testify against Muslims.
These are only samples of the contradictions and incompatibilities between the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Islamic laws and doctrines. The critical phenomenon is that as long as the Quran is perceived to be the words of God—and hence should be implemented word by word— and as long Islam views itself as part of the state, I think there can never be compatibility between the modern notion of human rights and Islam.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist and scholar, is president of the International American Council and he serves on the board of Harvard International Review at Harvard University. Rafizadeh is also a senior fellow at Nonviolence International Organization based in Washington DC and a member of the Gulf project at Columbia University.
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