Oct 062012

I have said a number of times:

“Islam, identified by the Koran and Hadith, is incompatible with Universal Human Rights and incompatible with the 21st Century”

It is worth showing more evidence for this claim.

Islam and Universal Human Rights – freedom of expression

I’ll use quotes from a recent (5th October) article from a Pakistan newspaper:

“Leaders of religious parties at an All Parties Conference (APC) have demanded of the rulers of the Muslim countries to move a resolution in the United Nations (UN) for an international legislation against the blasphemers….

“A communiqué issued on the occasion … demanded a review of clause 3 of article 1 of UN charter to remove the insult of religions and religious ideals from the scope of freedom of expression and declare it a global crime.”

That clause of the UN Charter states:

(The Purposes of the United Nations are …. 3)  “To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion

To identify the “scope of freedom of expression” which they want to restrict, see the Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (one of the most important documents of the 20th Century):

Article 19 – “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Needless to say, Article 19 is reasonably compatible with the US Bill of Rights (the 1st Amendment) and the European Convention on Human Rights (Article 10). It is compatible with rights in many other nations too.

The Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (officially supported by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) makes it clear in Article 22 that Shariah (Islamic Law) restricts the freedom to express opinions:

(a) Everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Shari’ah.
(b) Everyone shall have the right to advocate what is right, and propagate what is good, and warn against what is wrong and evil according to the norms of Islamic Shari’ah.
(c) Information is a vital necessity to society. It may not be exploited or misused in such a way as may violate sanctities and the dignity of Prophets, undermine moral and ethical values or disintegrate, corrupt or harm society or weaken its faith.

In effect, those “Leaders of religious parties at an All Parties Conference” (above) are proposing that part of Shariah should become global law! See also Defamation of religion and the United Nations.

Islam and Universal Human Rights – other rights

Here are some other incompatibilities between Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Islam:

Article 1 – “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” ….
Cairo Declaration, Articles 1 & 6 – Women don’t have equal rights.
And see Muslim women in the Olympics

Article 7 – “All are equal before the law” ….
Qur’an – Husbands can sometimes beat their wives (but not vice-versa) [4:34]. Women are at most half as reliable in court [2:282]. Women only deserve half the inheritance of their brothers [4:11, 4:176]. (There are other inequalities in Shariah that are not in the Qur’an or the Cairo Declaration).

Article 18 – Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief ….
General – Apostasy is normally considered to be a serious matter, and in some jurisdictions it is a crime with serious punishments.

Article 26 – (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
General – In practice equality of education for girls and women is often breached in Islamic states. However, arguably this is not formally part of Islam, but instead is a cultural problem that survives because women are not equal according to Islam.

Islam and the 21st Century

The basis for incompatibility is summarised in Tropicana Pineapple Juice called Mohammed. Is it blasphemy?:

“There are about 7 billion people in the world. 1000s of gods are worshipped. 1000s of religions are practised. 1000s of contradictory ideologies are espoused. In a world of global communications, it is probably impossible to say or show anything significant that someone somewhere won’t get upset about. It is obviously impossible to prevent those words and images being published.

“The onus is on people who disagree with them to take appropriate action if they are not to be upset or distressed. Except for personal attacks (which are not what I’m talking about here), people typically get upset for one of 2 reasons: because they have chosen to be upset; or because they have been brought up (perhaps indoctrinated) to be upset. For their sake, and for the sake of their children, they should choose not to be upset, and should not indoctrinate their children to be upset.”

Although blasphemy is sometimes claimed by atheists to be a “victimless crime”, it typically originates not to protect god(s) but to protect a fragile society from fragmentation. From Wikipedia:

“Some Islamic scholars point out it is important to understand the hadith in its proper historical context: it was written when the nascent Muslim community in Medina was fighting for its existence, and the enemies of Islam encouraged rebellion and discord within the community. At that time, any defection would have had serious consequences for the Muslims, and the hadith may well be about treason, rather than just apostasy.”

And the same applied to English blasphemy laws protecting Christianity. These laws were past their “use-by date” and have now been removed.  This need to move on from historical attitudes is covered in Holy books need expiry dates. The holy texts of Islam passed their “use-by date” in the 18th Century during the Age of Enlightenment. Islam was really incompatible with the 19th and 20th Centuries as well as the 21st Century.

Christianity has had hundreds of years to adapt itself to modernity. Islamic states are experiencing modernity being thrust upon them as a package: the global communication capability they want brings with it communications they don’t want. This isn’t their only conflict with modernity: those states have in the past been called a “science desert”. There is sometimes suspicion that “Western-style” evidence-based reasoning is incompatible with their conviction that they are custodians of the final and eternal word of Allah. And one group claiming responsibility for some of the violence stated that democracy is incompatible with Islam, because only Allah can make laws.

Islam versus Muslims

This article is about “Islam”, not about “most Muslims”. Individual Muslims may be far more enlightened than Islam itself, of course! This is potentially true where they are integrated minorities in non-Islamic states and are free to cherry-pick the less medieval, intolerant and barbaric bits. (See also Should modern Muslims re-brand Islam?).

All of us are pulled in many directions, by our upbringing, culture, education, family and community pressures, national values and laws, and our own analysis. The major religions had their roots in pre-enlightenment times, and this results in a direct pull (via personal beliefs arising from upbringing) and ongoing indirect pulls (via some in the family and community) towards unenlightened attitudes. But many Christians and Muslims overcome most of these these pulls and have a world-view compatible with the 21st Century. (“Most” but not “all” – they still believe without evidence in their particular god!)

If Islam and the 21st Century are to be compatible, there are 2 main approaches:

  1. Islam adapts itself to the 21st Century by adopting Enlightenment values and Universal Human Rights
  2. The 21st Century adapts to Islam by globally adopting Shariah at the expense of Enlightenment values

Which is it to be? Many Muslims want global Shariah, starting with Shariah in their current country. The trick for the rest of us is to spread the influence of enlightened attitudes widely and never give ground to Shariah. See The war for enlightenment.

Further reading

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