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Islam and the Challenge of Human Rights$
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Abdulaziz Sachedina

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195388428

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195388428.001.0001

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Individual and Society

Individual and Society

Claims and Responsibilities

(p.147) 5 Individual and Society
Islam and the Challenge of Human Rights

Abdulaziz Sachedina (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter takes up the question of group rights, which is one of the four areas of contemporary international controversy over internationally recognized human rights. The concept of human rights challenges the ideal of community that sees individuals, rights, and other social options as defined by group membership. Secularism sees society as transcending community in the way the universal transcends the particular. Although community has imperceptible historical roots extending back to antiquity, it is not a rational construct. The essential feature of communities is that one's presence in them is not a matter of choice; that is, one does not decide at a particular time to join such a community, even hypothetically. Human relationships in such communities are constituted more along the lines of status than contract, status inevitably being a matter of kinship. Societies, in contrast, are rational constructs that transcend the particularistic dimension of communities constituted by revelation. Subordination of community to society has been regarded as an indispensable facet of democratic governance, which is based on inclusive and equal membership of all citizens regardless of their religious affiliation in their respective faith communities. This sociological distinction between a community and a society does not fully resonate with the Islamic paradigm of a religious‐political society with a cosmic dimension that can be contrasted and compared with the secular model on the one hand, and the traditional religious community on the other. The essential feature of Muslim community is that although it is based on religious affiliation derived from revelation, it functions as a comprehensive political society, presupposing the natural and legally constructed entitlements of those who live under its domination. Such a view is in direct conflict with the human rights norms that attach fundamentality to individual existence without any reference to extraneous conditions.

Keywords:   group rights, community, autonomy, self, individual, traditional societies, family, female genital mutilation, headscarf, honor killing, secularity

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