THE TANDEM PROJECT
UNITED NATIONS, HUMAN RIGHTS,
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
PRESIDENT OBAMA VISITS THE BLUE MOSQUE &
HAGIA SOPHIA WITH
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Issue: Obama’s Visit to Muslim Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia and the Alliance of Civilizations.
President Barack Obama with a group of religious leaders from the UN backed Alliance of Civilizations Istanbul Forum visited the Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia. The visit demonstrated his commitment to interfaith dialogue and to the UN backed Alliance of Civilization coming together for dialogue on tolerance and respect for each others’ beliefs. The Blue Mosque is one of the most venerated Islamic places of worship in the world. The Hagia Sophia was the largest Byzantine Orthodox Christian church in the world until 1453.
For: United Nations, Governments, Religions or Beliefs, Academia, NGOs, Media, Civil Society
Review: The Dysfunctional Human Rights
Council, New York
This New York Times
editorial is critical of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The
Review: End of the Clash of
New York Times Editorial,
Review: The Clash of Civilizations and
the Remaking of World Order is an examination of a new world order emerging among
diverse civilizations, cultures and many religions. The
Alliance of Civilizations was in part a
reaction to a book The Clash of Civilizations
and the Remaking of World Order, written by the late Professor
Samuel P. Huntington,
“The Alliance of
Civilizations was established in 2005, at the initiative of the
Governments of Spain and
The Alliance of Civilizations 2007-2009 objectives: “develop, support and highlight projects that promote understanding and reconciliation among cultures globally and, in particular, between Muslim and Western societies. These projects are related to four main fields of action: youth, education, media and migration.”
THE DYSFUNCTIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
New York Times Editorial,
The Bush administration- which disdained the United Nations only slightly more than it disdained the hard work of diplomacy-choose to boycott the United Nations’ highly dysfunctional Human Rights Council. The Obama administration has decided to run for a seat on it. This may be the best chance to shape up this international embarrassment but it won’t be easy.
The council frequently and
The council’s weakness is part of
a larger problem at the United Nations. Rather than risk criticism of their own
policies, members all too willingly enable each other’s excesses-and call it
respect for national sovereignty. And like too many other United Nations
bodies, the council apportions membership on the basis of regional bloc
politics, not merit or performance. As a result, countries like
Making the council credible will
require countries that are genuinely committed to human rights to stand up to
the relatively small number of egregious violators and the much larger group
that gives them cover. That will not always be easy for
Washington will surely be elected
next month, since it will be running uncontested for a seat assigned to the
Western bloc. Membership will not be enough. Successful diplomacy rests on
forging compromises and building consensus. But when quiet diplomacy fails, as
it often will, the
END OF THE CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS
On his visit to
Mr. Bush often voiced respect for
Islam and rightly insisted that “the enemy of
Not only are Mr. Obama’s words
and tone better, his policies are better. He opposed the
Mr. Obama’s credibility is
enhanced by personal experience. He is a Christian, but his father was Muslim;
the president lived part of his childhood in
While he played down this
background during the 2008 campaign, it was a compelling line in last week’s
Aids say Mr. Obama is still planning a bigger speech to the Muslim world. The next one will have to acknowledge not just common ground but important difference with many Muslim countries-including the issues of women’s rights and freedom of religion-that are not easily bridged.
The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order
Samuel P. Huntington,
THE ISLAMIC RESURGENCE
Foreword by Samuel P. Huntington: “Some readers may wonder why “Resurgence” in “Islamic Resurgence” is capitalized. The reason is that it refers to an extremely important historical event affecting one-fifth or more of humanity, that it is at least as significant as the American Revolution, French Revolution, or Russian Revolution, whose “r” is usually capitalized, and that it is similar to and comparable to the Protestant Reformation in Western society, whose “r” is almost invariably capitalized.”
While Asians became increasingly
assertive as a result of economic development, Muslims in massive numbers were
simultaneously turning toward Islam as a source of identity, meaning,
stability, legitimacy, development, power and hope, hope is epitomized in the
slogan “Islam is the solution.” This Islamic Resurgence in its extent and
profundity is the latest phase in the adjustment of Islamic civilization to the
West, an effort to find a “solution” not in Western ideologies but in Islam. It
embodies acceptance of modernity, rejection of Western culture, and
recommitment to Islam as the guide to life in the modern world. As a top Saudi
official explained in 1994, “Foreign imports’ are nice as shiny or high-tech
‘things.’ But intangible social and political institutions imported from
elsewhere can be deadly – ask the Shah of
The Islamic Resurgence is the effort by Muslims to achieve this goal. It is a broad intellectual, cultural, social, and political movement prevalent throughout the Islamic world. Islamic “fundamentalism,” commonly conceived as political Islam, is only one component in the much more extensive revival of populations. The Resurgence is mainstream not extremist, pervasive not isolated.
In similar terms, a distinguished
scholar of Islam, Ali E. Hillal Desouki, sees the Resurgence as involving
efforts to reinstitute Islamic law in place of Western law, the increased use
of religious language and symbolism, expansion of Islamic education (manifested
in the multiplication of Islamic schools and Islamization of the curricula in
regular state schools), increased adherence to Islamic codes of social behavior
(e.g., female covering, abstinence from alcohol), and increased participation
in religious observances, domination of the opposition to secular governments
in Muslim societies by Islamic groups, and expanding efforts to develop
international solidarity among Islamic states and societies. La revanche de Dieu is a global phenomenon, but God, or
rather Allah, has made His revenge most pervasive and fulfilling in the ummah, the community of Islam. In 1995 every country with a
predominantly Muslim population, except
Economic development in
The causes of the renewed conflict between Islam and the West thus lie in fundamental questions of power and culture. So long as Islam remains Islam (which it will) and the West remains the West (which is more dubious), this fundamental conflict between two great civilizations and ways of life will continue to define their relations in the future even as it has defined them for the past fourteen centuries.
Conflicts between the West and Islam will focus less on territory than on broader inter-civilization issues such as weapons proliferation, human rights, democracy, and control of oil, migration, Islamist terrorism, and Western intervention.
This is all a little sobering, but a fascinating read as we see the U.N. Human Rights Council begin to take control from the EU and North America, and as we see the price of oil spike and the fight for control between the West and Islam continue.
In the wake of the Cold War, the increasing intensity of this historical antagonism has been widely recognized by members of both communities. In 1991, for instance, Barry Buzan saw many reasons why a societal cold war was emerging “between the West and Islam, in which Europe would be on the front line: “ This development is partly to do with secular versus religious values, partly to do with the historical rivalry between Christendom and Islam, partly to do with jealousy of Western power, partly to do with resentments over Western domination of the postcolonial political structuring of the Middle East, and partly to do with the bitterness and humiliation of the invidious comparison between the accomplishments of Islamic and Western civilizations in the last two centuries.”
In addition, he noted a “societal Cold War with Islam would serve to strengthen the European identity all round at a crucial time for the process of European Union.” Hence, “there may well be a substantial community in the West prepared not only to support a societal Cold War with Islam, but to adopt policies that encourage it.” In 1990 Bernard Lewis, a leading Western scholar of Islam, analyzed “The Roots of Muslim Rage,” and concluded: It should now be clear that we are facing a mood and a movement far transcending the level of issues and policies and the governments that pursue them. This is no less than a clash of civilizations – that perhaps irrational but surely historic reaction to an ancient rival against our Judeo-Christian heritage, our secular present, and the worldwide expansion of both. It is crucially important that we on our side should not be provoked into an equally historic but also equally irrational reaction against that rival.”
Similar observations came from
the Islamic community. “There are unmistakable signs,” argued a leading
Egyptian journalist , Mohammed Sid-Ahmed, in 1994, “of a growing clash between
the Judeo-Christian Western ethic and the Islamic revival movement, which is
now stretching from the Atlantic in west to China in the east.” A prominent
Indian Muslim predicted in 1992 that the West’s next confrontation is
definitely going to come from the Muslim world. It is in the sweep of Islamic
nations from the
In the 1980s and 1990s the overall trend in Islam has been in an anti-Western direction. In part, this is the natural consequence of the Islamic Resurgence and the reaction against the perceived “Gharbzadegi” or Westoxication of Muslim societies. The “reaffirmation of Islam, whatever its specific sectarian form, means the repudiation of European and American influence upon local society, politics, and morals.”
On occasion in the past, Muslim leaders did tell their people: “We must Westernize.” If any Muslim has said that in the last quarter of the twentieth century, however, he is a lonely figure. Indeed, it is hard to find statements by any Muslims, whether politicians, officials, academics, businesspersons, or journalists, praising Western values and institutions. They instead stress the differences between their civilization and Western civilization, the superiority of their culture, and the need to maintain the integrity of that culture against Western onslaught. Muslims fear and resent Western power and the threat which this poses to their society and beliefs. They see Western culture as materialistic, corrupt, decadent, and immoral. They also see it as seductive, and hence stress all the more the need to resist its impact on their way of life.”
Throughout Islam the small group and the great faith, the tribe and the ummah, have been the principle foci of loyalty and commitment, and the nation state has been less significant. In the Arab world, existing states have legitimacy problems because they are for the most part the arbitrary, if not capricious products of European imperialism, and their boundaries often did not even coincide with those of ethnic groups such as Berbers and Kurds.
These states divided the Arab
nation, but a Pan-Arab state, on the other hand, has never materialized. In
addition, the idea of sovereign nation states is incompatible with belief in
the sovereignty of Allah and the primacy of the ummah.
As a revolutionary movement, Islamist fundamentalism rejects the nation state
in favor of the unity of Islam just as Marxism rejected it in favor of the
unity of the international proletariat. The weakness of the nation state in
Islam is also reflected in the fact that while numerous conflicts occurred
between Muslim groups during the years after
World War II, major wars between Muslim states were
rare, the most significant ones involving
In the 1970s and 1980s the same
factors which gave rise to the Islamic Resurgence within countries also
strengthened identification with the ummah or Islamic
civilization as a whole. As one scholar observed in the mid-1980s: “A profound
concern with Muslim identity and unity has been further stimulated by
decolonization, demographic growth, industrialization, urbanization, and a
changing international economic order associated with, among other things, the
oil wealth beneath Muslim lands…Modern communications have strengthened and
elaborated the ties among Muslim peoples. There has been a steep growth in the
numbers who make the pilgrimage to
The sense of Muslim unity has
also been reflected in and encouraged by the actions of states and
international organizations. In 1969 the leaders of
Movement from Islamic consciousness to Islamic cohesion, however, involves two paradoxes. First, Islam is divided among competing power centers each attempting to capitalize on Muslim identification with the ummah in order to promote Islamic cohesion under its leadership. Second, the concept of ummah presupposes the illegitimacy of the nation state and yet the ummah can be unified only through the actions of one or more strong core states which are currently lacking. The concept of Islam as a unified religious-political community has meant that core states have usually materialized in the past only when religious and political leadership – the caliphate and the sultanate – have been combined in a single ruling institution.
ISSUE STATEMENT: United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, at the Alliance of Civilizations Madrid Forum said; “never in our lifetime has there been a more desperate need for constructive and committed dialogue, among individuals, among communities, among cultures, among and between nations.” Another writer in a different setting said; “the warning signs are clear, unless we establish genuine dialogue within and among all kinds of belief, ranging from religious fundamentalism to secular dogmatism, the conflicts of the future will probably be even more deadly.”
Progress is being made in constructive and committed dialogue at local, national and international levels. Is gradual progress fast enough to prevent deadly conflicts in the future?
Genuine dialogue on freedom of religion or belief does not work if minds are closed. It calls for respectful and thoughtful responses, discussion of taboos and clarity by persons of diverse beliefs. Inclusive dialogue is between people of theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. These UN categories were first defined in the 1960 seminal study on human rights and freedom of religion or belief by Arcot Krishnaswami.
International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief are international law and codes of conduct for peaceful cooperation, respectful competition and resolution of conflicts. The standards are a platform for genuine dialogue on core principles and values within and among nations, all religions and other beliefs. Genuine dialogue on core principles and values includes balanced discussion on cooperation, competition and conflict.
The Tandem Project: a non-governmental organization founded in 1986 to build understanding, tolerance and respect for diversity, and to prevent discrimination in matters relating to freedom of religion or belief. The Tandem Project, a non-profit NGO, has sponsored multiple conferences, curricula, reference materials and programs on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion - and 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.
The Tandem Project initiative is the result of a co-founder representing the World Federation of United Nations Associations at the United Nations Geneva Seminar, Encouragement of Understanding, Tolerance and Respect in Matters Relating to Freedom of Religion or Belief, called by the UN Secretariat in 1984 on ways to implement the 1981 UN Declaration. In 1986, The Tandem Project organized the first NGO International Conference on the 1981 UN Declaration.
The Tandem Project Executive Director is: Michael M. Roan, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Tandem Project is a UN NGO in Special Consultative Status with the
Economic and Social Council of the United Nations
Goal: To eliminate all forms of intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, at the Alliance of Civilizations Madrid Forum said; “never in our lifetime has there been a more desperate need for constructive and committed dialogue, among individuals, among communities, among cultures, among and between nations.” Another writer in different setting said; “the warning signs are clear, unless we establish genuine dialogue within and among all kinds of belief, ranging from religious fundamentalism to secular dogmatism, the conflicts of the future will probably be even more deadly.”
Challenge: to reconcile international human rights standards on freedom of religion or belief with the truth claims of religious and non-religious beliefs.
Genuine dialogue on freedom of religion or belief cannot work with a closed mind. It demands respectful and thoughtful responses, discussion of taboos and clarity by persons of diverse beliefs. Inclusive dialogue is between people of theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. These UN categories were first defined in the 1960 seminal study on freedom of religion or belief by Arcot Krishnaswami.
Inclusive and genuine dialogue is essential as a first step in recognition of the inherent dignity, equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family, and a foundation for freedom, justice and peace in the world. Leaders of religious and non-religious beliefs sanction the truth claims of their own traditions. They are the key to raising awareness and acceptance of the value of holding truth claims in tandem with human rights standards on freedom of religion or belief.
To build understanding and support for Article 18, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights –Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion - and the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. Encourage the United Nations, Governments, Religions or Beliefs, Academia, NGOs, Media and Civil Society to use International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief as essential for long-term solutions to conflicts in all matters relating to religion or belief.
1. Use International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief as a platform for genuine dialogue on the core principles and values within and among nations, all religions and other beliefs.
2. Adapt these human rights standards to education, teaching children, from the very beginning, that their own religion is one out of many and that it is a personal choice for everyone to adhere to the religion or belief by which he or she feels most inspired, or to adhere to no religion or belief at all.1
History: In 1968 the United Nations deferred work on an International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Religious Intolerance, because of its apparent complexity and sensitivity. In the twenty-first century, a dramatic increase of intolerance and discrimination on grounds of religion or belief is motivating a worldwide search to find solutions to these problems. This is a challenge calling for enhanced dialogue by States and others; including consideration of an International Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief for protection of and accountability by all religions or beliefs. The tensions in today’s world inspire a question such as:
Should the United Nations adopt an International Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief?
Response: Is it the appropriate moment to
reinitiate the drafting of a legally binding international convention on
freedom of religion or belief? Law making of this nature requires a minimum
consensus and an environment that appeals to reason rather than emotions. At
the same time we are on a learning curve as the various dimensions of the
Declaration are being explored. Many academics have produced voluminous books
on these questions but more ground has to be prepared before setting up of a UN
working group on drafting a convention. In my opinion, we should not try to
rush the elaboration of a Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief,
especially not in times of high tensions and unpreparedness. - UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief,
Option: After forty years this may be the time, however complex and sensitive, for the United Nations Human Rights Council to appoint an Open-ended Working Group to draft a United Nations Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief. The mandate for an Open-ended Working Group ought to assure nothing in a draft Convention will be construed as restricting or derogating from any right defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants on Human Rights, and the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.
Separation of Religion or Belief and State
Concept: Separation of Religion or Belief and State - SOROBAS. The First Preamble to the 1948 United Nations
Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads; “Whereas
recognition of the inherent
dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human
family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. This concept
suggests States recalling their history, culture and constitution adopt fair
and equal human rights protection for all religions or beliefs as described in
General Comment 22 on Article 18, International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights, UN Human Rights Committee,
Article 18: protects theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. The terms belief and religion are to be broadly construed. Article 18 is not limited in its application to traditional religions or to religions and beliefs with international characteristics or practices analogous to those of traditional religions. The Committee therefore views with concern any tendency to discriminate against any religion or belief for any reasons, including the fact that they are newly established, or represent religious minorities that may be the subject of hostility by a predominant religious community.
Article 18: permits restrictions to manifest a religion or belief only if such limitations are prescribed by law and necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
Dialogue: International Human Rights Standards on Freedom or Religion or Belief are international law and universal codes of conduct for peaceful cooperation, respectful competition and resolution of conflicts. The standards are a platform for genuine dialogue on core principles and values within and among nations, all religions and other beliefs.
1981 U.N. Declaration on Freedom of Religion or Belief
5.2: Every child shall enjoy the right to have access to education in the matter of religion or belief in accordance with the wishes of his parents, and shall not be compelled to receive teaching on religion or belief against the wishes of his parents, the best interests of the child being the guiding principle.” With International Human Rights safeguards, early childhood education is the best time to begin to build tolerance, understanding and respect for freedom of religion or belief.
5.3: The child shall be protected from any form of discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief. He shall be brought up in a spirit of understanding, tolerance, and friendship among peoples, peace and universal brotherhood, respect for the freedom of religion or belief of others and in full consciousness that his energy and talents should be devoted to the service of his fellow men.