Religion and Human Rights

Presenter/Author Information

Ahmed Khanani, Earlham College

Location

University of Dayton

Start Date

10-2-2015 4:00 PM

End Date

10-2-2015 5:30 PM

Abstract

In a critical contribution to contemporary rights conversations, Blattberg argues that “human rights talk” is simply too “thin” (2009). In particular, he argues that a flaw in scholarly conversations is the move to abstraction: the human is insufficient because it is impersonal. Blattberg lodges this criticism against a host of liberal thinkers, including Nussbaum and Walzer, and contends that the move to abstraction hinders calls to justice insofar as it fails to invest actors in the plights of other people. Yet, even as Blattberg calls to personalize the people to be protected, he does not elaborate on how to flesh out the people onto whom rights should be mapped. Moreover, in suggesting that the abstract human needs personalization, Blattberg elides more radical rethinkings: why not replace the human in human rights altogether?

I draw on the language of Moroccan Islamists to contend that the abstract human that Blattberg interrogates is but one possible foundation for a rights-based discourse. Moroccan Islamists articulate a rights discourse that does away with both the abstract human and the empathetic person, instead centering God and God’s injunctions. Differently put: whereas “rights” emerge from the variously constructed human assumed by secular arguments, for Islamists “rights” are authorized and circumscribed by God’s Will as interpreted from the Qur’an and hadith. I analyze ordinary language interviews with over 100 Islamists from Morocco’s two most popular groups and argue that my interlocutors not only displace the human from “human rights,” but also, correspondingly, revise the meaning and practice of specifically instantiated human rights—e.g., what practices of religious freedom ought to look like. Finally, I submit that an Islamist vision of rights not only expands the Muslim tradition, but also should be read as a criticism of both the practical and abstract components of liberal articulations of rights.

Comments

This biennial conference provides a unique space for scholars, practitioners and advocates to engage in collaboration, dialogue and critical analysis of human rights advocacy — locally and globally. Learn more about the Human Rights Center at the University of Dayton >>>.

 
Oct 2nd, 4:00 PM Oct 2nd, 5:30 PM

De-centering the Human: Moroccan Islamists and Human Rights (abstract)

University of Dayton

In a critical contribution to contemporary rights conversations, Blattberg argues that “human rights talk” is simply too “thin” (2009). In particular, he argues that a flaw in scholarly conversations is the move to abstraction: the human is insufficient because it is impersonal. Blattberg lodges this criticism against a host of liberal thinkers, including Nussbaum and Walzer, and contends that the move to abstraction hinders calls to justice insofar as it fails to invest actors in the plights of other people. Yet, even as Blattberg calls to personalize the people to be protected, he does not elaborate on how to flesh out the people onto whom rights should be mapped. Moreover, in suggesting that the abstract human needs personalization, Blattberg elides more radical rethinkings: why not replace the human in human rights altogether?

I draw on the language of Moroccan Islamists to contend that the abstract human that Blattberg interrogates is but one possible foundation for a rights-based discourse. Moroccan Islamists articulate a rights discourse that does away with both the abstract human and the empathetic person, instead centering God and God’s injunctions. Differently put: whereas “rights” emerge from the variously constructed human assumed by secular arguments, for Islamists “rights” are authorized and circumscribed by God’s Will as interpreted from the Qur’an and hadith. I analyze ordinary language interviews with over 100 Islamists from Morocco’s two most popular groups and argue that my interlocutors not only displace the human from “human rights,” but also, correspondingly, revise the meaning and practice of specifically instantiated human rights—e.g., what practices of religious freedom ought to look like. Finally, I submit that an Islamist vision of rights not only expands the Muslim tradition, but also should be read as a criticism of both the practical and abstract components of liberal articulations of rights.