The Islamic Legal Tradition and the International Human Rights Regime

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To bring a change in the way that Muslim-majority countries view international human rights, policymakers and academic communities must understand how Islamic law—sharia—relates to classical international law’s conceptions of human rights. Sharia carries a distinctive understanding of human rights, especially those of women. Indeed, according to the Muslim faith, human existence is bound by God’s perfect will for the humanity. In contrast, international human rights—as outlined in international treaties and conventions—are secular and indifferent to any particular religious stance. How do Islamic human rights relate to international law? This project is an agenda-setting effort at identifying an actual and authentic blind spot that has largely precluded the International Relations scholarship and the policymakers from fully understanding the Islamic world’s conceptions of human rights. I ask the following research questions: what interpretation of Islamic human rights can strengthen Muslim-majority countries’ support for international human rights treaties? Are there any similarities between Islamic law and international law that may foster this support? Framing sharia solely via the modalities of the West paints a distorted picture of the relationship between Islamic human rights and international human rights. This project constitutes my new research agenda that builds on my previous work funded by the Kellogg Institute.