Human Rights in Asia
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Human Rights in Asia

Edited by Thomas W.D. Davis and Brian Galligan

Does the increasing prominence of Asia also mark a new era for human rights in the region? This timely book uncovers the political drivers behind both recent regional and country-based changes to the recognition, promotion and protection of rights.
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Chapter 2: Muslim Debates on Human Rights and Freedom of Religion

Abdullah Saeed


Abdullah Saeed Muslims comprise one of the largest religious communities in Asia. Countries such as Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and even India are among the most heavily Muslim concentrated areas. Western and central parts of Asia are also predominantly Muslim. This chapter explores the way in which Muslims in Asia and elsewhere discuss and debate the issue of human rights. Naturally, there is a range of views and voices among Muslims in Asia on human rights. Throughout the past fourteen hundred years, Muslims have contributed to the broad area we call human rights, particularly through Muslim juristic debates in the area of ‘Islamic law’. Beginning with the Holy Scripture of Muslims, the Qur an, to the instructions of Prophet Muhammad and the body of law developed by Muslims, discussion exists on a range of rights, such as the right to life and freedom of belief. In the modern period, continuing on with earlier debates, Muslims, like others, have also been participants and contributors to the debates on human rights. While there are Muslims who believe that contemporary debates on human rights are dominated by Western ideas and agendas, many other Muslims believe that these debates are also part and parcel of Muslim thought. In this chapter, I will use an example of how Muslims engage with human rights debates today and will focus on freedom of belief as a fundamental human right, as expressed in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). THE NOTION OF HUMAN ‘RIGHTS’ IN...

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