World: Islam And Human Rights
Radio Free Europe
Is the concept of an Islamic state compatible with accepted notions of human rights? Can the modern concept of human rights make headway in the face of religious dogma and Islamic traditions? Emad Baghi, the head of the Tehran-based Organization for the Defense of Prisoners' Rights, knows at first hand the political sensitivity of new interpretations of religious texts, especially those involving human rights and the death penalty: in 2000, Baghi, then the editor in chief of the journal "Fath," was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison for writing about the death penalty and retribution, as well as the killing of political and intellectual dissidents.
In this interview, Baghi, who was released in 2003 after three years in prison, explains the difficulties of securing respect for human rights in Muslim countries as a result of the eclipse of a deeply rooted humanist tradition in Islam. In answers given to Fatemah Aman of Radio Farda, he sketches out the battle lines in debates about human rights -- within Islam, within Iran, between the secular and religious of all religions, and between tradition and modernity -- and argues that there are traditions both of Islamic law and Islamic mysticism in which modern concepts of human rights can be bedded. Tradition and modernity can coexist in Islamic society, he maintains, and those who want to promote human rights need to explore those religious traditions.