Human dignity: the foundation of human rights

A. RASHIED OMAR

March 21st is annually commemorated as Human Rights Day in post-Apartheid South Africa, in remembrance of the 1960 Sharpeville massacre in which the apartheid police force opened fire on a crowd of anti-pass law protesters, killing 69 and maiming 189. On Human Rights Day, we pay tribute to the Sharpeville martyrs. But Human Rights Day is also a useful time to become familiar with the latest thinking on the longstanding and robust debate about the compatibility between “Islam and Human Rights.”

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Another error in the “war on terror”

MAHAN MIRZA

From the outset, the so-called “war on terror” has proceeded erroneously. The first error was an incorrect diagnosis of the root causes of 9/11. The second error was the response. The third error has been the faulty narrative that has sustained the conflict. Instead of engaging in some real introspection and changing course where necessary, Congressman Peter King’s hearings on the radicalization of Muslims are a doubling-down on a path of errors.

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Muscular liberalism or multiculturalism?

VINCENT ROUGEAU

Last month, in a speech before the Munich Security Conference, British Prime Minister David Cameron declared that multiculturalism had weakened Britain’s collective identity and helped to make young British Muslims vulnerable to extremist ideologies. In response to these failings, he argued that European governments needed to build stronger national identities that rejected “passive tolerance” in favor of “a more active, muscular liberalism.” But unless there is some other coherent idea for engaging the new realities of multiple and overlapping identities, any failures of multiculturalism will not be addressed by abandoning the concept.

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Al-Azhar: beyond the politics of state patronage

A. RASHIED OMAR

The great Islamic polymath, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d. 1111), bemoaned the lack of intellectual independence, integrity and critical distance from the state that characterized the position of Muslim scholars in his time. He advises his young disciples neither to get too close to princes nor to praise them excessively. But even more than that, Imam Ghazali warns them not to accept generous gifts from rulers, even though this may be permissible: “Coveting things from the rulers and those in power will spoil and corrupt your religion, since there is born from it flattery and ‘kowtowing’ to those in power and unwise approval of their policies.”

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A new Egypt

SHAYKH ALI GOMAA

In the aftermath of Mubarak’s resignation, Egypt stands at the dawn of a new era. It is an era borne of the ingenuity, sacrifices and dedication of an entire nation. We remember and recognize all those brave men and women who lost their lives but have ignited and galvanized the movement of change. The past month has been a testament to the spirit and integrity of the Egyptian people.

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Beyond state idolatry in Egypt

A. RASHIED OMAR

What we are currently witnessing in Egypt is a transformative moment that has been described by the pro-democracy demonstrators in the streets of Cairo as a “Tunisami”—a tsunami of social activism that first swept a despot in Tunisia from power and now in Egypt. The question on many people’s minds is: What comes next? I hope Egyptians will embrace a lesson citizens in my own South Africa have learned the hard way: beware the idolatry of the state.

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Let fundamental reforms bring a new, peaceful Egypt

SHAYKH ALI GOMAA

It is with a heavy heart that I have watched the events of the past few days unfold. Violence is always regrettable, but to watch my own country deteriorate into virtual chaos is a cause of unimaginable grief and sadness, and the recent attacks against demonstrators are worthy of the strongest condemnation. To see Egypt in such a state of chaos is truly heart-wrenching. There is, however, reason for hope and optimism.

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North African Islamists are stronger than they look

MICHAEL D. DRIESSEN

Although everyone by now has traced a narrative arc from Tunisia to the momentous events in Egypt, eyes darted first to Algeria. In the days surrounding the collapse of Tunisian President Ben Ali’s government, many wondered about the stability of the government in Algiers. In fact, some Algerian political opposition forces are currently attempting to rally around the present moment of political openness—a moment fraught with all the more potential because of the unfolding situation in Egypt.

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Al-Azhar should resume—and widen—its Vatican dialogue

A. RASHIED OMAR

Al-Azhar’s suspension of dialogue with the Vatican raises three interrelated questions for interreligious peacebuilders. First, is Pope Benedict XVI’s policy on Islam prudent given the volatile post-9/11 world we live in? Second, does the Pope’s diplomacy with Muslims require more nuance? Third, is al-Azhar University over-reacting in its response to Benedict’s remarks?

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The “Mormon Menace”

PATRICK Q. MASON

Nineteenth-century America saw a nationwide campaign to tame the “Mormon menace.” Promoted by an alliance of religious and secular individuals, institutions, and ideals, it even led President Rutherford B. Hayes to recommend stripping Mormons of their citizenship. Although Contending Modernities will focus primarily on Mormonism’s fellow subjects of modern opprobrium—Islam and Catholicism—it is important to consider such other “shadow cases” as we examine the complex dynamics of religion in modernity. The deep pluralism characteristic of the modern age has posed, and will continue to pose, a substantial challenge to the largely Euro-American-Protestant construct of secularism that dominated much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

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