Tag Archives: Human Rights

“Voltaire’s Revolution” (Noyer, ed.)

In July, Prometheus Books will release “Voltaire’s Revolution: Writings from His Campaign to Free Laws from Religion,” translated and edited by G.K. Noyer. The publisher’s description follows: 
Voltaire, the pen name of François-Marie Arouet (1694–1778), was one of the most influential leaders of the Enlightenment. This book presents the first full English translations of selected writings from Voltaire’s legendary pamphlet campaign for tolerance, which forcefully drove the movement to grant freedom of beliefs and end state-imposed religions. Voltaire wrote close to two hundred works advocating for that change. John Adams wrote that Voltaire “did more for religious liberty than Calvin, Luther or even Locke.” 
This collection also contains accounts of Voltaire’s battle as seen by the great mathematician-philosophe Condorcet, King Frederick the Great of Prussia, and others, long unavailable in English―a valuable addition to the library of anyone with an interest in human rights and freedom of thought.

“The Changing Nature of Religious Rights Under International Law” (Evans et al., eds.)

This Month, Oxford University Press will release “The Changing Nature of Religious Rights Under International Law” edited by Malcolm Evans (University of Bristol), Peter Petkoff (Oxford University), and Julian Rivers (University of Bristol).  The publisher’s description follows:

Changing Nature of Religious RightsThe Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, as proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1981, is the only universal human rights instrument specifically focusing on religious intolerance and discrimination. However, recent years have seen increasing controversy surrounding this right, in both political and legal contexts. The European Court of Human Rights has experienced a vast expansion in the number of cases it has had brought before it concerning religious freedom, and politically the boundaries of the right have been much disputed. This book provides a systematic analysis of the different approaches to religious rights which exist in public international law.

The book explores how particular institutional perspectives emerge in the context of these differing approaches. It examines, and challenges, these institutional perspectives. It identifies new directions for approaching religious rights through international law by examining existing legal tools, and assesses their achievements and shortcomings. It studies religious organisations’ support for international human rights protection, as well as religious critique of international human rights and the development of an alternative religious ‘Bills of Rights’. It investigates whether expressions of members belonging to religious minorities can be considered under the minority right to culture, rather than the right to religion, and discusses the benefits and shortcomings of such a route. It analyses the reach and limits of the provisions in the 1981 Declaration, identifies ways in which the right is being eroded as a concept, and suggests new ways in which the right can be reinforced and protected.

Alberts, “Shamanism, Discourse, Modernity”

In April, Ashgate will release “Shamanism, Discourse, Modernity” by Thomas Karl Alberts (University of Cape Town, South Africa). The publisher’s description follows:

Shamanism, Discourse, Modernity considers indigenous peoples’ struggles for human rights, anxieties about anthropocentric mastery of nature, neoliberal statecraft, and entrepreneurialism of the self.

The book focuses on four domains – shamanism, indigenism, environmentalism and neoliberalism – in terms of interrelated historical processes and overlapping discourses. In doing so, it engages with shamanism’s manifold meanings in a world increasingly sensitive to indigenous peoples’ practices of territoriality, increasingly concerned about humans’ integral relationship with natural environments, and increasingly encouraged and coerced to adjust self-conduct to comport with and augment government conduct.

Ali, “Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now”

In March, Harper Collins Publishers will release “Heretic: Why Islam Needs a
Reformation Now” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Harvard University). The publisher’s description follows:

Continuing her very personal journey Hereticfrom a deeply religious Islamic upbringing to a post at Harvard, the brilliant, charismatic and controversial New York Times and Globe and Mail #1 bestselling author of Infideland Nomad makes a powerful plea for an Islamic Reformation as the only way to end the horrors of terrorism and sectarian warfare and the repression of women and minorities.

Today, the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims can be divided into a minority of fundamentalists, a majority of observant “daily” Muslims and a few dissidents who risk their lives by questioning their own religion. But there is only one Islam and, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali argues, there is no denying that some of its key teachings—like the subordination of women and the duty to wage holy war—are incompatible with the values of a free society.

For centuries it has seemed as if Islam is immune to change. But Hirsi Ali has come to believe that a “Reformation”—a revision of Islamic doctrine aimed at reconciling the religion with modernity—is now at hand, and may even have begun. The Arab Spring may now seem like a political failure. But its challenge to traditional authority revealed a new readiness—not least by Muslim women—to think freely and to speak out.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali argues that ordinary Muslims throughout the world want change. Courageously challenging the fundamentalists, she identifies five key amendments to Islamic doctrine that must be made in order to set Muslims free from their 7th-century chains. Interweaving her own experiences, historical analogies and powerful examples from contemporary Islamic societies and cultures, Heretic is not a call to arms, but a passionate plea for peaceful change and a new era of toleration.

In Turkey, the Clash of Civilizations Continues

In academic and policymaking circles in the West, one hears a great deal about universal human rights. These rights, it is said, apply to everyone, everywhere; they are inherent in human nature. It’s an interesting idea. The problem is, not everyone agrees. That’s putting it mildly. Whole civilizations reject the Western conception of universal human rights, including, principally, freedom of expression and freedom of religion. We can tell ourselves that the conflict is temporary and superficial, that other civilizations are moving inexorably toward our understanding. We have international agreements! But much suggests the clash is profound and perduring.

Events in Turkey over the past weekend provide more evidence. On Saturday, 100,000 people gathered in the city of Diyarbakir to protest the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in the French journal, Charlie Hebdo. One hundred thousand people – that’s hardly a fringe phenomenon. According to an account in a Turkish newspaper, speakers condemned the notion that freedom of expression extended to insults against the Prophet. Protesters held up placards with phrases such as “‘Damn those saying “I am Charlie,” and ‘May Charlie’s Devils not defame the Prophet.’”

These sentiments are not limited to the reaches of Anatolia. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu personally expressed his support for the protesters. At a meeting of the ruling AKP party in Diyarbakir, he sent greetings to the protesters, to “each and every brother who defends the Prophet Muhammad here.” (Ironically, Davutoğlu represented Turkey at the solidarity rally in Paris the weekend after the Charlie Hebdo attacks).  And, on Sunday, a court in Ankara ordered Facebook to block users’ access to pages containing content deemed insulting to the Prophet. According to the New York Times, Facebook immediately complied.

Of course, not everyone in Turkey endorses these actions, but that’s not the point. Throughout the country, and in many other places across the globe, millions disagree, profoundly, with how the West understands things. They are not about to change their minds. We need to pay attention. The clash of civilizations continues.

“Religion and Human Rights: Global Challenges from Intercultural Perspectives” (Gräb & Wilhelm eds.)

In March, Walter De Gruyter Inc. will release “Religion and Human Rights: Global Challenges from Intercultural Perspectives” edited by Wilhelm Gräb (Humboldt University) and Lars  Charbonnier (Führungsakademie für Kirche und Diakonie gAG “Leadership Academy for Church and Diakonia”). The publisher’s description follows:

Current processes of globalization are challenging Human Rights and the attempts to institutionalize them in many ways. The question of the connection between religion and human rights is a crucial point here. The genealogy of the Human Rights is still a point of controversies in the academic discussion. Nevertheless, there is consensus that the Christian tradition – especially the doctrine that each human being is an image of God – played an important role within the emergence of the codification of the Human Rights in the period of enlightenment. It is also obvious that the struggle against the politics of apartheid in South Africa was strongly supported by initiatives of churchy and other religious groups referring to the Human Rights. Christian churches and other religious groups do still play an important role in the post-apartheid South Africa. They have a public voice concerning all the challenges with which the multiethnic and economically still deeply divided South African society is faced with. The reflections on these questions in the collected lectures and essays of this volume derive from an academic discourse between German and South African scholars that took place within the German-South African Year of Science 2012/13.

“Religion and Human Rights” (Gräb & Charbonnier, eds.)

This March, Walter De Gruyter Press will release “Religion and Human Rights: Global Challenges from Intercultural Perspectives” by Lars Charbonnier and Wilhelm Gräb (Humboldt University, Germany).  The publisher’s description follows:

Religion and Human Rights- InterculturalCurrent processes of globalization are challenging Human Rights and the attempts to institutionalize them in many ways. The question of the connection between religion and human rights is a crucial point here. The genealogy of the Human Rights is still a point of controversies in the academic discussion. Nevertheless, there is consensus that the Christian tradition – especially the doctrine that each human being is an image of God – played an important role within the emergence of the codification of the Human Rights in the period of enlightenment. It is also obvious that the struggle against the politics of apartheid in South Africa was strongly supported by initiatives of churchy and other religious groups referring to the Human Rights. Christian churches and other religious groups do still play an important role in the post-apartheid South Africa. They have a public voice concerning all the challenges with which the multiethnic and economically still deeply divided South African society is faced with. The reflections on these questions in the collected lectures and essays of this volume derive from an academic discourse between German and South African scholars that took place within the German-South African Year of Science 2012/13.

Movsesian at American Historical Association Meeting

For readers attending the American Historical Association’s Annual Meeting in New York this weekend, I’ll be on a Sunday panel, “Contemporary Orthodox Christianity and Human Rights.” The panel, sponsored by the American Society of Church History, is chaired by Penn’s Sally Gordon, who participated in our Joint Colloquium this past spring. Details are here. Please stop by and say hello!

Little, “Essays on Religion and Human Rights”

This February, Cambridge University Press will release “Essays on Religion and Human Rights: Ground to Stand On” by David Little (Georgetown University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Religion and Human RightsThis collection of seminal essays by David Little addresses the subject of human rights in relation to the historical settings in which its language was drafted and adopted. Featuring five original essays, Little articulates his long-standing view that fascist practices before and during World War II vivified the wrongfulness of deliberately inflicting severe pain, injury, and destruction for self-serving purposes and that the human rights corpus, developed in response, was designed to outlaw all practices of arbitrary force. Drawing on the natural rights tradition, the book contends that while there must be an accountable human rights standard, it should nevertheless guarantee wide latitude for the expression and practice of religious and other conscientious beliefs, consistent with outlawing arbitrary force. This book further details the theoretical grounds of the relationship between religion and human rights, and concludes with essays on U.S. policy and the restraint of force in regard to terrorism and to cases like Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. With a foreword by John Kelsey, this book stands as a capstone of the work of this influential writer on religion, philosophy, and law.