THE TANDEM PROJECT
UNITED NATIONS, HUMAN RIGHTS,
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
U.N. CHAMBER OF HUMAN RIGHTS & ALLIANCE OF CIVILIZATIONS
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Issue: United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in the new UN Chamber of Human Rights & Alliance of Civilizations.
For: United Nations, Governments, Religions or Beliefs, Academia, NGOs, Media, Civil Society
Review: The eleventh session of the U.N. Human Rights Council is meeting in new UN. Chamber of Human Rights & Alliance of Civilizations. The proceeding of the 2-18 June 2009 sessions can be viewed on the U.N. Human Rights Council web cast at:
The Alliance of Civilizations
was established in 2005, at the initiative of the Governments of Spain and
One key objective of the
In pursuing these objectives, the Alliance of Civilizations maintains a universal perspective. “A priority emphasis on relations between Muslim and Western societies is warranted given that cross-cultural polarization and mutual fear are most acute within and between these communities and represent a threat to international stability and security.”
The Alliance of
Civilizations in part is named as a reaction to The Clash of
Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, written by the late
Professor Samuel P. Huntington at
Here is an excerpt from his book. If his opinions have validity twelve years later they may be reflected in the eleventh session of the U.N. Human Rights Council and Islam & the Right to Change Religion or Belief a report on the extended sixth session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in December 2007. (See attached Word Document).
The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order
By Samuel P. Huntington,
THE ISLAMIC RESURGENCE
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.
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 the 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, mean 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.”
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.”
Genuine dialogue on human rights and freedom of religion or belief calls for respectful discourse, discussion of taboos and clarity by persons of diverse beliefs. Inclusive dialogue includes people of theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. The warning signs are clear, unless there is genuine dialogue ranging from religious fundamentalism to secular dogmatism; conflicts in the future will probably be even more deadly.
In 1968 the UN deferred work on an International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Religious Intolerance because of its complexity and sensitivity. In forty years violence, suffering and discrimination based on religion or belief has dramatically increased. It is time for a UN Working Group to draft what they deferred in 1968, a comprehensive core international human rights treaty-a United Nations Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief. See History.
The challenge to religions or beliefs at all levels is awareness, understanding and acceptance of international human rights standards on freedom of religion or belief. Leaders, teachers and followers of all religions or beliefs, with governments, are keys to test the viability of inclusive and genuine dialogue in response to the UN Secretary General’s urgent call for constructive and committed dialogue.
The Tandem Project title, Separation of Religion or Belief and State (SOROBAS), reflects the far-reaching scope of UN General Comment 22 on Article 18, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Human Rights Committee (CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.4). The General Comment on Article 18 interprets this international rule of law as a guide for peaceful cooperation, respectful competition and resolution of conflicts. See below: General Comment 22 on Article 18, CCPR.
Surely one of the best hopes for humankind is to embrace a culture in which religions and other beliefs accept one another, in which wars and violence are not tolerated in the name of an exclusive right to truth, in which children are raised to solve conflicts with mediation, compassion and understanding.
We welcome ideas on how this can be accomplished; firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE TANDEM PROJECT PROPOSALS
Proposals for constructive, long-term solutions to conflicts based on religion or belief:
(1) Develop a model
local-national-international integrated approach to human rights and freedom of
religion or belief, appropriate to the cultures of each country, as follow-up to the Universal Periodic Review. See
GENERAL COMMENT ON ARTICLE 18:
2: Note: By
The Tandem Project is a non-governmental organization (NGO) 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 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: email@example.com.
The Tandem Project is a UN NGO in Special Consultative Status with the
Economic and Social Council of the United Nations