Opinion: Setting a standard for human rights

Fiza Shah

Fiza Shah

Fiza Shah is a freshman news major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].

“If you read these teachings [of Qur’an, Sunnah, and Hadith] and then read the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, then you will find yourself in a world of conflict. Muslim countries such as Sudan, Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia have all criticized the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights for its perceived failure to take into the account the cultural and religious context of Islamic countries because they claimed their governments were based on the Sharia”—Marco

In another comment, Marco stated, “These rights [UN Declaration] do not apply to Countries, they apply equally to individuals, both men and women, believers and non-believers, gay and straight. This is called the collective ‘STANDARD’ of human rights.”

However, this standard is set by and for secular countries. We Americans often try to take a one-size-fits-all approach to different countries’ ethics and cultures. It may surprise you to know that not everyone is trying to emulate the West, or Western culture.

To be honest with you, I am not in the least bit politically inclined. However, I do know that the “standard” that you mentioned seems to be ignored by most of the nations that do make up the UN, including the United States. Is signing a paper really that important, if we aren’t even following what we agreed to?

I’m not saying this to dodge a question regarding Islam. Instead, I’m trying to show you how ridiculous it is to blame countries for not signing the UN Declaration, when we ourselves are not following it. In fact, if you read the UN Declaration, and our history since signing it, you would realize we should be in a world of conflict.

In fact, there are articles of the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights (created and signed by the Muslim countries) that I wish every country would adopt (whether they are secular or theocratic).

For example, Article 3 A of the CDHR states, “It is not possible to kill non-belligerents such as old men, women and children. The wounded and the sick shall have the right to medical treatment; and prisoners of war shall have the right to be fed, sheltered and clothed.”

These are the terms of war I wish everyone would accept, whether they are secular or religious. And this is something not mentioned in the UN Declaration. I think this should be a standard for human rights, and should be followed by everyone.

But instead, we create prisons where we detain people without fair trial, keeping them in terrible conditions without hope of release.

Instead, we bomb civilian areas, where women and children reside, in hopes of killing a couple of enemies.

Instead we treat the wounded and diseased enemies as objects to be degraded.

All the while, we blame the East for being barbaric with the Sharia Law.

In the second part of the article, it states that the enemies’ civilian buildings, crops, livestock cannot be damaged during times of war. How is this a bad concept? Basically, let’s not punish those who have nothing to do with the fight. I think this should be a standard.

Article 13 says, “He [a worker] may neither be assigned work beyond his capacity nor be subjected to compulsion or exploited or harmed in any way. He shall be entitled without any discrimination between males and females — to fair wages for his work without delay, as well as to the holidays, allowances and promotions which he deserves.”

What a concept, right? We shouldn’t employ people to do work that is more than they can physically bear. And, women and men should be paid equally for the same job and should be hired based on qualifications. This is a standard we should be moving toward.

Because we want to point the finger at others, let’s look at the three pointing back, shall we?

Article 1 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour […] or other status.”

Keep this in mind as we look at Article 16, stating, “Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family.”

So, why have we not yet allowed homosexuals to marry on the basis of a religious belief that it is not legitimate union?

“No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” according to Article 5. And yet, we created the Guantanamo prison for that very purpose, and it still houses prisoners today.

Article 23 says, “Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.” Someone notify the Mexican migrant workers being paid less than minimum wage for their hard work. Or those people working in sweat shops we all so conveniently ignore to make shopping a lot less of a guilt trip.

In reality, I could keep going. I could go into the sanctions we put on other countries, ultimatums we throw around, and yet refuse to follow ourselves.

My point is not to blame the United States for not being perfect. That is, obviously, not possible. However, I will ask the very question you asked me. “Then why apply for membership in the UN Organization that requires specific human rights be upheld that are,” I’ll add, denied under the Constitution of the United States and the precedent set.

You are right in saying that many countries in the East have refused to sign the UN Declaration based on their interpretation of Sharia (I would like to write a separate article explaining exactly what this is).

However, is that really important when those who have signed don’t feel obligated to follow it?

And can we not respect the Cairo Declaration for ideas that add to this overall standard for how humans should be treated, not just Muslims, instead of having an all-or-nothing view on other countries’ compliance with our code of ethics?

An end note:

I have yet to get angry or upset after reading any of the comments posted, except for one under my last article. Marco stated confidently, “I guarantee that Fiza supports their cause,” the cause being that of Hamas. If it were anything else, I would have ignored it as ignorance. However, you are essentially accusing me of siding with a terrorist organization. That is a very hefty allegation to make. I am not a follower of Hamas, and I have not written anything that would lead you to believe otherwise. I’m ignoring it this time, but next time I will not be responding to anyone who posts such comments. It is neither fair nor accurate.

I am very interested in responding to your point on Palestine/Israel conflict and the pilgrimage to Mecca. So don’t think I’m ignoring your points, or nit picking.

Thank you to anyone who commented and posted questions, especially Marco.

If you have any questions regarding Islam, please email me or post it in a comment below.