The Iranian Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi has criticized Islamic leaders for abusing human rights in the name of Islam, and declared that such practices have no justification in Islam. From AFP, with thanks to Nicolei:
Some Islamic countries are using the religion as a pretext for refusing to observe human rights, Nobel peace prizewinner and Iranian human rights campaigner Shirin Ebadi said today.
“Islam is the religion of equality and has no contradiction with the declaration of human rights,” Ebadi told a seminar in the Indonesian capital.
“Any reference to unchangeable religious and cultural relativity is an excuse to evade observing human rights.” Ebadi, 56, giving the keynote speech at the seminar on Islam and Universal Values, said Islamic countries were signatories to most international rights treaties since there was no fundamental contradiction with Islamic principles.
“However they evade implementing the said treaties through religious excuses as they find it difficult to comply with human rights treaties and conventions,” she said, speaking in Farsi with an English translation.
I would like to get Ebadi’s impressions of a book by one of her countrymen, the Iranian Sufi leader Sheikh Tabandeh: A Muslim Commentary on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There are many indications in it that the Sheikh believes that Islam and international norms of human rights are incompatible. To take just one of many examples: while arguing for capital punishment if a Muslim is killed, Tabandeh argues against it if the murderer is Muslim and the victim non-Muslim. “Since Islam regards non-Muslims as on a lower level of belief and conviction, if a Muslim kills a non-Muslim … then his punishment must not be the retaliatory death, since the faith and conviction he possesses is loftier than that of the man slain. A fine only may be exacted from him …”
Is Tabandeh right and Ebadi wrong about Islam? Not necessarily. But it would be helpful if Ebadi articulated precisely how and why, on the basis of Islamic principles, she rejects Tabandeh’s version of Islam. If she could convincingly refute, on Islamic grounds, the Islamic justifications for violence and terrorism invoked by radicals today, she would make her most significant contribution to world peace of all.