Religion and Human Rights; Compatibility, Conflict and Resolution workshop at Al-Mahdi Institute

Religions have been a primary source of guidance and normativity for their followers for centuries. They emerged to cater for the needs of the communities of different eras and locales by providing systems of norms and rules on how to live a moral and spiritual life. These religious normative systems were very successful in fulfilling the needs of their communities; indeed, their systems of social organisation, and spiritual practice became established to the extent that they continue to be significant and authoritative for the overwhelming majority of the global population. Paradoxically, human history attests that religions have also been a source of division and discord between adherents of different faiths, resulting in some of the bloodiest wars and killings, and oppression based on doctrinal discriminations against the ‘other’.

In the wake of the number of human lives lost in the first and second world wars, the advent of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as international law for its plenipotentiaries was a hallmark in human history, whereby discriminatory treatment of individuals could be outlawed. Although intended as a legal measure to prevent the escalation of nation-wide discriminatory events to mass genocide, its implications extended to curbing the norms and laws of nation states founded directly upon religion. Thus the conflict and antagonism was born between human rights and religion, and debates ensued within religious seminaries and religious departments in universities regarding the compatibility of individual religions and human rights.

To explore this further, Al-Mahdi Institute hosted an inaugural workshop as part of a series of events on Socio-political issues and Religion called, ‘Religion and Human Rights’ bringing together human rights specialists and scholars from different world religions with expertise on human rights. Scholars such as, Ayatullah Muhaqiq Damad, Professor Abdul Aziz Sachedina, Sheikh Arif Abdulhussein, Kishan Manocha, Anicee Van England, David van Dusen, Susannah Cornwall and many spoke of different issues related to this.

Below is a full list of the topics discussed by the specialists and scholars with links to their full abstracts. Please click on the titles to view the full abstracts.

To view the full gallery of images from the event, please click on the image above.

Ayatullah Syed Muhaqiq Damad (Shahid Behesti University) – Religion and Human Rights between Theo-centralism and Human Centralism

Ranbir Singh (HHR, the organisation for Hindu Human Rights) – Have Religions been the basis for Human Rights or impeded them? 

Joseph Luis Ilaquet (University of Loyola Andalucia) – Religious duties and Human Rights a meeting point?

Anicee Van England (SOAS, University of London) – International Law, International Human Rights and Religion

Daniele Bolazzi (Kings College London) – Defining Religious Diversity: the Beurocratization of Religious identity in Egypt

Jose Ferrer Sanchez (Granada University) – Dialogue and Meditation for the right to Religious freedom

Ahmed Shaheed (University of Essex) – Combining Sharia with human Rights Obligations: Defending new forms in the constitutional and Penal reforms in the Maldives  

Dennis U Ashara (University of Ibadan) – Peace building in Nigeria: Evaluating the influence of Tolerance and Peace education in a Heterogeneous society

Islam Uddin (Middlesex University) – The Muslim wife in Britain: In pursuit of Divorce in a Multicultural society, in light of Human Rights

Maria Dimova Cookson (Durham University) – Why is Religion at the heart of Modern liberty? Benjamin Constant on Religious experience, the power of the clergy and the ‘vivid love of individual independence’ 

Mark Juergensmeyer (University of California, Santa Barbara) – Hindu and Buddhist challenges to Human Rights in South and Southeast Asia

Kishan Manocha (Barrister and Chair, International Association for Religious Freedom, British Chapter) – Principles and processes that facilitate the realisation of the freedom to believe in the individual lives of Baha’is

Giovanni Patriarca (Italian Cultural Institution in Nuremberg, Bavaria-Germany) – Back to essentials: Rediscovering Human Nature. An Existential and Spiritual dialogue.

Susannah Cornwall (University of Exeter) – Bodily Rights and Gifts: Intersex, Religion and Human Rights

David Van Dusen (University of Leuven) – A Crime against Human Nature: Revisiting Immanuel Kants argument against Religiously closed Constitutions

Syed S.M Ghari Fatemi (Al-Mahdi Institute) – Moralists-Realists divides on Modern state and Human Rights: An Islamic virtue – mystical observation

Abdul Aziz Sachedina (University of Virginia) – Can Islam become a legitimating source for the cultural legitimacy of the UDHR?

Callum Miller (Oxford University) – Whence Human Rights? Some moral evidence for Theism

Sheikh Arif Abdulhussein (Al-Mahdi Institute) – The relationship between Religion and human Rights in light of Existantialism