Source: The Star
By Dr WAN AZHAR WAN AHMAD
MANY perceive the doctrine of human rights as a set of legal standards which determines the national and international order. Some regard it as being above their state constitutions and various other codified laws, even nobler than any religious scriptures.
It seems that a kind of a new universal jurisprudence entirely based on human rights is emerging and is becoming bolder, urging that priority be given to the so called rights of man in the area of civil, political, economic, social and cultural over national interests or religious precepts.
A number of aspects pertaining to the human rights discourse suggests that careful scrutiny is inevitable. Human rights carry unavoidable political content and epitomize certain value systems which somehow differ from one society to another.
“Value system” here is not confined to the principles of ethics and morality, but rather must include religion-based world views as well.
Therefore, one must examine those political contents and the various value systems to ensure that human rights are not in conflict with these world views.
If there exists any contradiction or deficiency, adjustments and reconciliation must be made to the effect that no party may abuse any right accorded them, and none may suffer any injustice.
This is necessary since the universal nature claimed by the human rights movement is actually complex.
It requires assessments in progressive terms, and interpretations in accordance with the current legal, political, historical, social, cultural and religious contexts of any given community.
As human rights deals with a variety of groups, we tend to have different views on how the doctrine is best integrated into the development agenda of any nation.
In our Malaysian context, like it or not, we must always bear in mind that we are governed by the Federal Constitution.
This supreme document is already incorporated, and thus guarantees a considerable number of human rights principles.
Our role here is to facilitate the understanding and awareness of our fellow citizens concerning their human rights obligations in the light of the constitutional provisions and their implications.
In this sense, human rights should neither be made the basis to undermine the Constitution, nor be worshipped as if they represent a sacred agenda which could impose restrictions in terms of transforming the country into a united, peaceful and developed nation.
Human rights must not be exploited to create security threats or economic instability for the Government.
Yet if one examines the unfolding of events in recent years, one may conclude that human rights and the state are actually at loggerheads.
On the one hand, the country has issued statements and has even taken actions indicative of the fact that the Government supports the promotion and protection of human rights. It has even ratified a number of international treaties on human rights.
On the other hand, however, issues like religious conversion, body snatching, allegedly denying one citizenship, the mistreatment of refugees, and so on, are portrayed as serious infringements of certain basic human rights.
Human rights advocates seem to argue that although generally supportive, the country’s backing is insufficient.
The Government has never affirmed in strong clear terms that the country is more than willing to play its role effectively in relation to those human rights precepts as binding legal principles or legal obligations.
The fact that those documents are conditionally ratified with certain reservations speaks for itself.
Those human rights vanguards fail to appreciate either consciously or unconsciously that those international documents must be interpreted and understood purposely and contextually, in accordance with the peculiarities, demands and values of the community they aspire to serve.
No doubt the state plays a significant role in upholding the rights of its subjects.
But, in executing this role, the authorities must also honour the legal limits imposed by its Constitution and any other laws currently enforced.
We are not supposed to give in to any foreign provisions affecting our interests if those are contradictory to any provision of our Constitution.
The Government must also respect the religious parameters of certain religions wherever relevant.
One must know, for example, that freedom of religious conversion enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is antithetical to Islam.
Islam has its own way of dealing with such an issue.
No one has the right to interfere in matters they do not understand.
It is perhaps clear now that the state can and sometimes should take human rights into consideration in its decision-making process.
In doing so, however, certain limitations must be observed.
What is perfectly moral in certain cultures might not be the same in certain other environments.
What can be done by the authorities is to nurture a better understanding of any given country – its history, its aspirations, current situations and future directions. This is possible through education at all levels.
History is very important and must be taught properly to all citizens, either in a formal manner or otherwise.
Similarly, the followers of all religions must be made aware that their common enemy is secularism and the secularisation processes.
The current international framework of human rights is largely – if not completely – based on secular philosophy.
True religion or any value system which recognises ethics and morality has no role whatsoever apparently.
If we really believe in a religious or value system, we cannot accept any notion under the banner of human rights which propagates the idea that man is free to do whatever he likes without restriction.
It appears here that IKIM (Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia) which was launched by Mahathir Mohamed in 1992, believes that human rights is inconsistent with Islam. The good doctor from IKIM must understand that all religions don't share the Islamic view on human rights. Maybe, this explains why baby snatching and body snatching and forced conversions into Islam seemed to be condoned by Jahil (ignorant) Muslims like the good doctor who appears like the Muftis in this country who speak more like Umno politicians rather than as men of God. It would be interesting to know what is IKIM's view on suicide bombing by Muslim fanatics whom the BN/Umno regime hails as Muslim fighters who have shahid even though they kill innocent civilians, both Muslim and non Muslim. The Scribe would like to know what is IKIM's view on the ISA. Is the ISA Halal since it is IKIM's view that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is antithetical to Islam. Also read this related article http://margeemar.blogspot.com/2009/04/malaysia-new-prime-minister-should-keep.html#links