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Human Rights in Islam

Published: 20/08/2011 10:41:00 PM GMT
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Islam has been wrongly accused of violating human rights. While no one can deny that human rights violations, some of them quite severe, occur in many Islamic countries, it is wrong to place the blame for this on the Muslim faith.

The Qur'an is quite explicit in its defense of human rights and most violations are the result of human lack of character and the extremist attitudes of many religious scholars and authority figures. The justification for many human rights violation comes from an extremist reading of controversial passages, usually with a deficient understanding of context, while ignoring much more obvious Surah in the Qur'an that explicitly state what is probably the intended meaning in regards to a particular human right.

Two human rights that have been in the spotlight recently, due to the waves of protests that have been erupting in Muslim countries are the right to dissent or to protest and the right to religious freedom. The Qur'an grants dissent and protest the status of an intrinsic human right. Every Muslim has the right and duty to participate in public affairs and to have a say in the the community. The Qur'an speaks gravely against dictatorship and explicitly states that no human being can demand complete total obedience from another. This power lies only with God and cannot be usurped by rulers. Not even the Prophet was exempt from this; God tells the Prophet to consult Muslims about public affairs. If even the Divine Messenger must check with the community before issuing a decree, what does this say about modern day dictators and totalitarian rulers?

Freedom of religion, or freedom of worship, are also guaranteed by the Qur'an. It explicitly says that there must not be coercion in any matters related to faith. When Muslims conquered territories in the beginnings of Islam, unlike European crusaders, they guaranteed and respected the traditions and faiths of the people they conquered. The Qur'an clearly states that it is not the faith they profess but the way they conduct themselves that is the basis for God's judgment on humanity. The duty of every Muslim is to let everyone know of the word of God, but every human being has the right to choose and decide for himself, the very definition of freedom of religion. In Al-Baqarah the Qur'an states that the Muslims, as well as the Jewish people and the Christians all can have the rewards of the Lord as long as they are righteous and do no evil.

The Qur'an grants non-Muslims the right to religious freedom, as well as to Muslims that have renounced the faith. Each person's destiny lies with God, not with other human beings. The only exception in which Muslims are allowed to fight against people of other faith's is when they engage in acts of war against Islam, in which case they should be treated as the enemy, the aggressor. This special case has been the basis for many radical interpretations of Islam that have led to violence in recent years.

One right that is strongly defended in the Qur'an is the right to knowledge. A strong part of the Muslim faith is acquiring knowledge, and it is well mentioned in the Hadith that to seek knowledge should be one of the highest goals for any Muslim. To strive to discover the ultimate nature of everything. The Qur'an takes the view that knowledge is necessary for an ideal world and for the future of humanity. Peace and justice can only be attained by the pursuit of knowledge, and the freedom to pursue knowledge is a basic human right.

One basic tenet of Islam is that, as every creature depends on God for its sustenance, then everything belongs to God and not to one particular person. This means that any person that has economic power or a position of authority does not have the right to deprive other people from the sustenance they need to live. These resources are God's and all of humanity uses what they need as a gift from God. Having the right to sustenance and the right to work for the means to acquire it are all very basic rules of the Islamic faith.

The Qur'an is quite clear in its defense of fundamental human rights. Many other rights, like the right to travel and migrate or the right to privacy are well defended in the Qur'an. It is the duty of any Muslim to learn about how the Qur'an defends their basic human rights so that they will not stand for totalitarian dictatorships that seek to strip Muslims from their rights, which are given to us by God. The very right to protest against the violation of human rights is even defended in the Qur'an, and is being exercised today by Muslims all around the world protesting against unjust governments in countries in the Middle East.

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