Tag Archives: International Human Rights

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.

Dionigi, “Hezbollah, Islamist Politics, and International Society”

This month, Palgrave Macmillan releases “Hezbollah, Islamist Politics, and International Society,”  by Filippo Dionigi (Middle East Centre of the London School of Economics and Political Science). The publisher’s description follows:

How do the norms of the liberal international order influence the activity of Islamist movements? This book assesses the extent to which Islamist groups, which have traditionally attempted to shield their communities from ‘external’ moral conceptions, have been influenced by the principles that regulate international society. Through an analysis of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Filippo Dionigi concludes that international norms are significant factors changing Islamist politics. We are still far from an accomplished resolve of the tension between Islamist communitarianism and liberal normative views, but a precarious equilibrium may emerge whereby Islamists are persuaded to rethink the idea of an allegedly ‘authentic’ Islamic morality as opposed to the legitimacy of international norms.

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.

“Religion and Human Rights” (Črpić & Ziebertz eds.)

This January, Springer Publishing will release “Religion and Human Rights: An International Perspective” edited by Hans-Georg Ziebertz (University of Würzburg, Germany) and Gordan Crpic (Catholic University in Zagreb, Croatia).  The publisher’s description follows:

Religion and Human Rights​This book examines the relationship between human rights and religiosity. It discusses whether the impact of religiosity on human rights is liberational or suppressive, and sheds light on the direction in which the relationship between religion and human rights is expected to develop. The questions explored in this volume are: Which are the rights that are currently debated or under pressure? What is the position on human rights that churches and religious communities represent? Are there tensions between churches, religious communities and the state? Which rights are especially relevant for young people and which relate to adolescents life-world experiences? Covering 17 countries, the book describes two separate, yet connected studies. The first study presents research by experts from individual countries describing the state of human rights and neuralgic points anticipated in individual societies. The other study presents specific findings on the relationship between these two social phenomena from empirical research in a population of high school students. Studying this particular population allows insights into social trends, value systems and attitudes on human rights, as well as an indication of the likely directions of development, and potential room for intervention.

Video: Movsesian Lecture on Mideast Christians at Lanier Theological Library

For those who might be interested, the Lanier Theological Library has made available a video of my lecture last month, “Religious Freedom for Mideast Christians: Yesterday and Today.” In the lecture, I discuss the history of the Mideast’s Christian communities, their persecution today, and what Americans can do about it.

The video is below. Thanks again to Mark Lanier and everyone at the library for hosting me!

Gubo, “Blasphemy and Defamation of Religions in a Polarized World”

This December, Lexington Books will release “Blasphemy and Defamation of Religions in a Polarized World: How Religious Fundamentalism is Challenging Fundamental Human Rights” by Darara Gubo.  The publisher’s description follows:

The 21st century has been significantly shaped by the growing importance of religion in international politics resulting in rising polarization among nation states. This new dynamic has presented new challenges to international human rights principles. This book deals with some of these new challenges, particularly the growing demand by Muslim states for protection of Islamic religion from blasphemy and defamation. Member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), through resolutions at the United Nations, made efforts to introduce laws that globally protect Islamic religion from blasphemy and defamation. The bid by OIC member states faced opposition from Western countries. The conflicting claims of the two sides are discussed in this book. The book clearly shows the impact of blasphemy and defamation of religion laws on certain aspects of fundamental human rights principles.

“Mapping the Legal Boundaries” (Provost, ed.)

This December, Oxford University Press will release “Mapping the Legal Boundaries: Religion and Multiculturalism from Israel to Canada” edited by Rene Provost (McGill University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Mapping the Legal BoundariesFor several decades, culture played a central role in challenging the liberal tradition. More recently however, religion has re-emerged as one of the central challenges facing Western liberal societies’ conception of multiculturalism. Mapping the Legal Boundaries of Belonging explores the complex relationship between religion and multiculturalism and the role of the state and law in the creation of boundaries.

The intersection between religion, nationalism and other vectors of difference in Canada and Israel offer an ideal laboratory in which to examine multiculturalism in particular and the governance of diversity in general. The contributors to this volume investigate concepts of religious difference and diversity and the ways in which these two states and legal systems understand and respond to them. As a consequence of a purportedly secular human rights perspective, they show, state laws may appear to define religious identity in a way that contradicts the definition found within a particular religion. Both state and religion make the same mistake if they take a court decision that emphasizes individual belief and practice as effecting a direct modification of a religious norm: the court lacks the power to change the authoritative internal definition of who belongs to a particular faith. Similarly, in the pursuit of a particular model of social diversity, the state may adopt policies that imply a particular private/public distinction foreign to some religious traditions.

Al-Jabri, “Democracy, Human Rights and Law in Islamic Thought”

This November, I.B. Tauris Publishers will release “Democracy, Human Rights and Law in Islamic Thought” by Mohammed Abed Al-Jabri (Mohammed V University, Morocco).  The publisher’s description follows:

9781780766508Mohammad Abed al-Jabri is one of the most influential political philosophers in the contemporary Middle East. A critical rationalist in the tradition of Avincenna and Averroes, he emphasizes the distinctive political and cultural heritage of the Arab world whilst rejecting the philosophical discourses that have been used to obscure its democratic deficit. This volume introduces an English-language audience for the first time to writings that have had a major impact on Arab political thought. Wide-ranging in scope yet focused in detail, these essays interrogate concepts such as democracy, law, and human rights, looking at how they have been applied in the history of the Arab world, and show that they are determined by political and social context, not by Islamic doctrine. Jabri argues that in order to develop democratic societies in which human rights are respected, the Arab world cannot simply rely on old texts and traditions. Nor can it import democratic models from the West. Instead, he says, a new tradition will have to be forged by today’s Arabs themselves, on their own terms.