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Muslims and Global Justice

By Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im

Publication Year: 2011

Over the course of his distinguished career, legal scholar Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im has sought to reconcile his identity as a Muslim with his commitment to universal human rights. In Muslims and Global Justice, he advances the theme of global justice from an Islamic perspective, critically examining the role that Muslims must play in the development of a pragmatic, rights-based framework for justice.

An-Na'im opens this collection of essays with a chapter on Islamic ambivalence toward political violence, showing how Muslims began grappling with this problem long before the 9/11 attacks. Other essays highlight the need to improve the cultural legitimacy of human rights in the Muslim world. As An-Na'im argues, in order for a commitment to human rights to become truly universal, we must learn to accommodate a range of different reasons for belief in those rights. In addition, the author contends, building an effective human rights framework for global justice requires that we move toward a people-centered approach to rights. Such an approach would value foremost empowering local actors as a way of negotiating the paradox of a human rights system that relies on self-regulation by the state.

Encompassing over two decades of An-Na'im's work on these critical issues, Muslims and Global Justice provides a valuable theoretical approach to the challenge of realizing global justice in a world of profound religious and cultural difference.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights


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pp. v-vi

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Introduction: Reimagining Global Justice

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pp. 1-32

The title and themes of this book, Muslims and Global Justice, may be briefly explained as follows, subject to further elaboration in this introduction and clarification in various chapters. By “global justice” I mean globally inclusive conceptions of justice to be realized by human beings for themselves, everywhere, through their own self-determination...

Part I. The Challenge of Universality and Cultural/Religious Legitimacy

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Chapter 1. Islamic Ambivalence to Political Violence: Islamic Law and International Terrorism

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pp. 35-64

From a formal point of view, it can be said that Islamic law prohibits all violence except in cases of official punishment for crime, strict private self- defense, or formally declared legitimate war as regulated by law. Islamic religious ethics emphasize orderly and peaceful social relations and condemn clandestine violence against defenseless victims. However, there are certain ambiguities ...

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Chapter 2. Problems of Universal Cultural Legitimacy for Human Rights

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pp. 65-96

It is commonplace now to decry the unacceptable discrepancy between the theory and the practice of human rights. Despite several decades existence of elaborate and enlightened international standards of human rights and despite the rhetoric of strong commitment to these standards by governments, which are often supported in or pressured into such a commitment by an increasing number of nongovernmental organizations and groups, we continue...

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Chapter 3. Toward a Cross-Cultural Approach to Defining International Standards of Human Rights: The Meaning of Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

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pp. 97-117

An intelligent strategy to protect and promote human rights must address the underlying causes of their violation. These violations are caused by a complex variety of factors and forces, including economic conditions, structural social factors, and political expediency. For the most part, however, human rights violations are due to human action or inaction—they occur because individual...

Part II. Prospects of Mediation for the Paradox of Universality and State Self-Regulation

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Chapter 4. State Responsibility Under International Human Rights Law to Change Religious and Customary Laws

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pp. 121-139

States are responsible for bringing their domestic law and practice into conformity with their obligations under international law to protect and promote human rights. This responsibility applies not only to laws enacted by formal legislative organs of the state but also to those attributed to religious and customary sources or sanction, regardless of the manner of their “enactment” or...

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Chapter 5. Islamic Foundations of Religious Human Rights

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pp. 140-160

Following an introduction of the terms of reference and thesis of this chapter on the Islamic foundations of religious human rights, my discussion will fall into three parts. First, I will offer an outline of the origins, nature, and development of Islamic law and theology and of their modern influence. The second section will focus on the nature and circumstances of discourse about...

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Chapter 6. Cultural Transformation and Normative Consensus on the Best Interest of the Child

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pp. 161-181

The premise of this analysis is that normative universality in human rights, including the rights of the child, should neither be taken for granted nor achieved through the “universalization” of the norms and institutions of dominant cultures, whether at the local, regional, or international levels. In relation to the definition and implementation of the best interests of the child principle...

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Chapter 7. Toward an Islamic Hermeneutics for Human Rights

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pp. 182-196

A central question in the consideration of religion’s relation to human rights is whether the various views of what it means to be truly human leave room for a set of neutrally formulated common human rights. It is not possible, or desirable, in my view to identify a set of neutrally formulated human rights. Any normative regime...

Part III. Regional and Global Perspectives

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Chapter 8. Competing Claims to Religious Freedom and Communal Self-Determination in Africa

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pp. 199-222

This chapter derives from a larger project addressing issues of conflict between competing claims to religious freedom and “communal” self-determination1 in the context of three regions of the world: Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Africa.2 This primarily geographical focus of the project as a whole is intended to highlight contextual factors, without underestimating the role...

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Chapter 9. Globalization and Jurisprudence: An Islamic Perspective

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pp. 223-246

Professor Harold J. Berman has argued since the 1980s that the three traditional (and here we can read Western) schools of jurisprudence—positivism, naturalism, and historicism—should be integrated or that an integrative jurisprudence would draw on elements of all three schools.1 Although I agree with the vision and rationale of Professor Berman’s approach...

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Chapter 10. The Politics of Religion and the Morality of Globalization

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pp. 247-271

The thesis I wish to examine in this chapter is that globalization can facilitate the politics of religion. This facilitation, I would add, can be done in ways that enable the politics of religion to instill some moral restraints on the dynamics of economic globalization in the interest of social justice. Because such synergy and mediation would need to be initiated and promoted by human...

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Chapter 11. Global Citizenship and Human Rights: From Muslims in Europe to European Muslims

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pp. 272-313

My objective in this chapter is to link two enlightened and humane ideas of our time, human rights and citizenship, in order to invite scholars, opinion leaders, and the general public to explore how the synergy and mutual support of these two concepts can contribute to protecting human dignity and social justice at home and abroad...


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pp. 315-343


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pp. 345-367


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pp. 369-374

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pp. 374-374

I am grateful for the funding provided by the Center for the Study of law and Religion (CSLR) of Emory University School of Law for the editing of this collection of essays under a major project of the Center that is generously sponsored by the Henry Luce Foundation in New York City. However, this book is published independently by the Human Rights Series of the University of...

E-ISBN-13: 9780812204339
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812242867

Page Count: 408
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights
Series Editor Byline: Bert B. Lockwood, Jr., Series Editor See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 794925513
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Muslims and Global Justice

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Subject Headings

  • Globalization -- Religious aspects -- Islam.
  • Civil rights (Islamic law).
  • Human rights -- Religious aspects -- Islam.
  • Law and globalization.
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