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The Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights

July 20, 2010

Islam and Human RightsAndalusia, Spain    All Muslim governments signed the UN Declaration of Human Rights, guaranteeing for their citizens such rights as the freedom to change one’s religion.  All Muslim countries, including Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Syria, Indonesia, etc, endorsed it. That is why we can say that Frontiers teams only work in Muslim countries that have endorsed the freedoms guaranteed in the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

But advancing an alternative document, the Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights, Muslim governments attempted to show compliance with the UN declaration in an English language version while retaining blatant discriminatory practices in the Arabic and Persian versions of their declaration. I guess they did not expect Ann Mayer to take a close look and publish her findings.

Ann Mayer, professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote Islam and Human Rights, a book exposing the variances between the two versions of the Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights. Mayer did not start out to make trouble; indeed, one senses that she wishes to come to another conclusion than the one which the facts compel her to accept. In fact, Mayer felt pressured by academic peers not to compare the two sets of documents.[1] Her critics say that one cannot compare the two because of the principle of cultural relativism. That is, alien values from the West are compared to the East, and these alien values make the Eastern values seem weaker by comparison.

Fortunately for the sake of truth, Ann Mayer pushed herself to compare the human rights documents because she believes words have meaning, and, as everyone who has written a high school paper on comparing and contrasting knows, the way you gain understanding is to read and think hard about what you are reading, and compare what you are reading to other similar documents.

Muslim nations presented their “Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights” to the United Nations in 1981. Ann Mayer writes, “In a casual reading, the Islamic Declaration seems to be closely modeled after the United Nations declaration, but upon closer examination many of the similarities turn out to be misleading.”[2] In the English version of the Islamic Declaration, Article 3 provides that “all per­sons are equal before the Law and are entitled to equal opportunities and protection of the Law,” which could leave the impression that the Islamic Declaration has reversed the discrimination against women and non-Muslims that shari’a law requires. But when one consults the Arabic version of the Islamic Declaration, the true state of things is made clear: people are not guaranteed the equal protection from discrimination, but “equal protection” under the shari’a law, a law that is inherently discriminatory and in violation of international standards.

One might get the impression from reading the English version of Article 14 of the Islamic Declaration that it endorses a right to freedom of promote one’s religion. Not so. Instead, according to the Arabic heading of Article 14, the provision deals with haqq al-da’wa wa’l-balagh, that is, the right of Muslims to propagate Islam and to disseminate the Islamic message. Exposing this sleight of hand, Ann Mayer realized that the only freedom of religion that is being guaranteed is one that protects Muslims to spreading Islam.[3] Stay in school and read carefully.

Next: Ferdinand and Isabela: The Reign in Spain that Changed the World


[1] Ann Mayer, Islam and Human Rights (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1999).

[2] Ibid. 21

[3] Ibid. 94

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