Islam, the principle of subjectivity, and individual human rights

Authored by: Bassam Tibi

Routledge Handbook on Human Rights and the Middle East and North Africa

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138807679
eBook ISBN: 9781315750972
Adobe ISBN: 9781317613763


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The issue area singled out in the present inquiry on Islam’s predicament with cultural modernity relates to individual human rights. These are understood as law that provides legal entitlements. This understanding is based on a concept of rights that attributes to individuals entitlements that they claim vis-à-vis state and society. This is a core issue of cultural modernity. I first argue generally that individual human rights expose all religions to a radical challenge. Islam is no exception, despite all Islamic claims to the contrary. It is not only Christian theologians who claim that the roots of these rights are in their own religion; Muslim revivalists similarly believe that the origins of human rights are found in the teachings and doctrines of Islam. 2 , 3 Both are mistaken. Individual human rights are intrinsically modern, and also secular; they are based on the principle of subjectivity, of the identity of the self. This principle is an embodiment of cultural modernity.

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