By DR. JAVED JAMIL:
I feel frustrated when I find Muslim intellectuals using Islam for justifying the current international terms or concepts, most of which are defective or deficient, and are advocated by the global forces for their own ends. ‘Human Rights’ is one such concept, which Muslim intellectuals lend their voice to without realising its hidden motives and implications and without suggesting the correctives.
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) was, of course, the best champion of the rights of human beings the world has ever witnessed, but his aims and the methods to achieve those aims were entirely different from what the current international proponents of human rights have. In simple words, “human rights” to him was only a small part of a larger plan.
The Prophet gave importance to the lives of individuals as well as the lives of the larger humanity, and took steps to ensure that not only human beings as individuals have their personal rights but the society and the system ensure security to their lives. To him, the security of life was paramount, and human rights in violation of human security had no justification. Without the system safeguarding the individuals, human rights are often exploited by the forces for their own interests. Rights without duties and prohibitions are an open invitation to exploitation. This is what differentiates Islam from the current ideologies where human rights are used less to safeguard the dignity of the people and more to exploit them.
Soon after Declaration of Risalat, and conveying the primary message of total submission to One God, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) embarked upon his social agenda where every individual’s dignity was to be secured through organized efforts. The plan to emancipate slaves in stages was initiated, the campaign to restore dignity of women was launched, the female infanticide was condemned in the strongest possible words, there were clear injunctions against forcing slave girls into prostitution, and the forces of hegemony in Makkah were challenged.
Even in wars, there were instructions not to kill the wounded and the captives, and there were clear instructions not to engage in war except in certain conditions, and if war has begun, to return to ceasefire as soon as possible.
“Human Rights” in the modern world have virtually been reduced to the rights of the murderers and rapists against being executed, the rights of gays against being targeted for their highly dangerous habits and the rights of women for aborting their children in order to make things easy for the male-dominated socio-economic system. Even violence has been categorised to suit their own plans so that the powerful appear to be peace-loving and those who refuse to toe the line appear to be dangerous.
They will condemn “terrorism” and will ignore war; and if their own people indulge in “terrorism” they will call it “war of liberation” from the rulers. They have no concern for the lives lost in crimes and suicides within their own countries, the lives lost in wars against other countries and the rebellions masterminded by them. They are also not concerned about the tens of millions of lives lost annually due to social vices like alcohol, smoking and unhealthy and immoral sexual practices. They will talk for days about beheadings but will not talk of bombs that kill thousands of times the beheadings kill. Bombs become dangerous for them only if they are used by their enemies.
The modern concept of ‘human rights’, as most of other modern terminologies and concepts, originated from the West. Superficially, it looks an extremely fascinating slogan. But its hidden objectives are not that attractive. The West feared that the kind of economic fundamentalism and legal system that it had decided to aggressively pursue could have some very serious adverse effects. It would engender barbarism in society in the form of steep rise in all forms of crimes including murder, rape, robbery and bribe. It would also enhance societal tensions as well as psychiatric illnesses. If these really happened, it would give a bad name to their ideology.
To counter this, the economic fundamentalists sought to impart a new meaning to ‘human rights’ so that the darker face of their civilisation could not come to the fore. They could use the brighter side to fusillade those systems that were unwilling to accept the economic hegemony of the West. The result of such re-orientation has been that the situation of human rights in a country is not assessed on the basis of crimes there, but on how the accused in various crimes are being treated by governmental institutions and agencies. Apparently, human rights organisations argue that they safeguard the people against excesses. But in reality, they only serve criminals and saboteurs of social peace. What happens to the victim of a crime and his relatives does not bother them; their function is only to follow the trial of the accused.
The economic fundamentalists have vested interests in the paralysed legal system, for criminals and crimes form an indispensable part of their operations. Criminals are supported in more than one way. If they or their crimes have any political dimensions, the “champions” of human rights are quick to label their trial as ‘political vendetta’. It is true that governments tend to be less kind towards their opponents, and often use the stick of law to punish them. But it is equally true that all political forces have some nexus with criminals who are used to create ugly situations for the ruling party or coalition. This side of the coin is however intentionally overlooked.
Human rights organisations never publish reports on the crime-situation in different countries, and never pressurise the governments to drastically reduce them, so that the common people can pass their lives without fear; for such reports would unveil their own faces and fingers will then be at the Western ideologies. The Law has become a big industry with trillions of dollars involved in it.
‘Women’s rights’ is yet another extremely favourite subject with the Amnesties and the Human Rights Watches. And it is needless to repeat that the major aim behind all the ruckus that is regularly made is to assist merchants of sex and barons of consumer industry. Why is it that “purdah” (veil) annoys them, but prostitution doesn’t? Why has Amnesty, the self-proclaimed champion of human rights, never bothered to tell the world that there cannot be a bigger crime against womanhood than its sordid commercialisation? Why does it not shout that a civilisation cannot claim to be a true human civilisation if it creates a social environment in which women have to willingly or unwillingly sell their bodies?
Amnesties and Human Watch groups take extraordinary pains to highlight the cases of rapes in police custody or in prisons. But their eyes do not bleed at thousands of rapes that innocent women have to suffer daily all over the world. If they begin to unveil the nefarious strategies of the commercial exploitation of women, nothing else would be required to prove their credentials. But the truth is that amnesties are damnesties, which are only mouthpieces of the economic fundamentalists. Their goals are only to glorify Westernism and degrade every other system.
One of the issues that Amnesty and other organisations have continuously been raising at different platforms is that of child labour, an issue ostensibly inspired by humanist sentiments. There can hardly be anybody not moved by the concern shown for the innocent children who, instead of going to schools, have to earn their livelihood in fields and factories. They often have to work in wretched conditions. The situation needs prompt redress. But, is this concern for child labour the only – or the real – motive behind the worldwide campaign? The actual motivating force, on the contrary, is the strategy of big industries to throttle the small sector, so that they can expand their own market.
They know that small-scale industries may be individually small, but combined they have a sizeable share in the economy of at least some countries. They reckon that these industries survive only because they can get relatively cheap labour in the form of young children; once this labour goes beyond their reach, they will not be able to compete with big industries, and will be left with no option but to wind up. Why should the circulation of money remain confined between owners of small-scale businesses and their clients, without the involvement of the big business?
The economic fundamentalists neglect the fact that these children are bread-earners for themselves and their extremely poor families, where each member has to financially contribute to survive. If child labour has to end, better ways should be found, so that small-scale industries do not face virtual extinction.
It is now high time the concept of human rights was re-examined. Human rights are nothing if they do not guarantee the security of the common people, including men, women and children, old, young and yet-to-be born. Islam has a larger plan, which aims at Human Security, “human rights” being only one of the means to achieve that aim. To ensure human security, emphasis on prohibitions is equally essential. Human Security demands that lives of all human beings must be safeguarded against all kinds of external threats. None – individual, society, corporate sector or government, can be allowed to offer the choice of death to the people; freedom of choice must be limited to choice among the good. A choice between life and death cannot simply be given to the people. A child cannot be left on a highway hoping that it will take all the necessary precautions to save it from being crushed by fast moving vehicles. People are like children who more often than not are guided by baser instincts that suck them into all forms of life-threatening and peace-threatening habits.
Addiction has hardly any regard or fondness for knowledge and sanity. Who knows better, about the ill effects of alcohol, smoking and sexual perversions, than do doctors? Still they often succumb to the temptations. A smoker, a drinker, a drug addict and a promiscuous person understand that they face huge risks on account of their habits; but such is the effect of these on baser instincts that they find it hard to be governed by their knowledge.
Human security demands that all necessary measures must be taken to minimize
* Murders (severe punishment to criminals)
* All other crimes (punishments equal to crimes, and poverty alleviation)
* Rapes and other crimes against women (Severe punishment to rapists, proper dress code, ban on nudity and sex in films and media)
* Diseases caused by gambling, smoking, drinking and unhealthy sexual practices (ban on tobacco, alcohol, gambling and all forms of sex industries)
* Suicides (apart from ban on all forms of addiction, endeavours to strengthen family system)* Abortions (total ban on abortions except for medical reasons, ban on premarital sex)
* Commercial exploitation of women (total and effective ban on prostitution and pornography)
* Commercial exploitation and sexual abuse of children (total and effective ban on commercialisation of sex, harshest legal measures against sexual abusers, social environment conducive for healthy family life)
* Effective steps to minimise economic disparity (this will be discussed later) and poverty
Islamic organisations must popularise the slogan of Human Security at every possible level. Seminars must be conducted to highlight concerns related to the security of all human beings. Regular surveys must be conducted to assess the position at the global level, as a whole as well as the situation in all the countries of the world. The governments of different countries must be sent missives demanding strengthening of legal system and multi-sectorial campaigns against all the crimes and evils. Governments of Muslim countries must be constantly pressurised to raise the issue of global security in the international organisations, including UN, WHO, European Union, NAM, etc.
Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) had the dignity of human life foremost in his mind. To safeguard life and the quality of life was the principle on which he built the Islamic system of governance and social system. If he prohibited alcohol, it was to safeguard human life; if he made sexual relations outside marriage a punishable offence, it was again aimed at safeguarding mankind from disastrous consequences; if he campaigned against abortions and female infanticide, it was again to ensure that even foetuses and infants enjoy their lives.
Let us learn the comprehensiveness of human dignity from the Last Ambassador of God who taught us that security is the prerequisite of dignity
Author is India based thinker and writer and Head of Chair in Islamic Studies & research, Yenepoya University, Mangalore, with over a dozen books including his latest, “Muslim Vision of Secular India: Destination & Road-map” and “Qur’anic Paradigms of Sciences & Society” (First Vol: Health), “Muslims Most Civilised, Yet Not Enough” and Other works include “The Devil of Economic Fundamentalism”, “The Essence of the Divine Verses”, “The Killer Sex”, “Islam means Peace” and “Rediscovering the Universe”.