An-Na`im Urges Acceptance of Human Rights Based on Religious Beliefs

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By April Bogle

CSLR Senior Fellow Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na`im spoke on the controversial topic of Islam and human rights at a major international human rights conference led by world-renowned philosopher Jürgen Habermas in Frankfurt, Germany in June.

The prominent Muslim scholar at the predominantly Western event, An-Na`im delivered his argument that people don’t need to have the same reasons for their commitment to human rights for that commitment to be valid. “A Muslim, or any other believer, is entitled to his or her commitment to these [human] rights on a religious foundation as other are entitled to found their commitment on secular or atheistic beliefs,” An-Na`im said at the Human Rights Today International Conference at Goethe University.

An-Na`im believes he was invited to speak at the prestigious event in part because his work references the thinking of American philosopher John Rawls, a now deceased colleague of Habermas. “Habermas is the most highly respected liberal philosopher alive today. He is almost like a God in Frankfurt, yet he is so humble and collegial,” said An-Na`im, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law at Emory.

An-Na`im has written extensively on the subject of Islam and human rights, most recently Islam and Human Rights: Collected Essays (Ashgate Publishing, 2010),and  Muslims and Global Justice (forthcoming, University of Pennsylvania  Press, Winter 2011).

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