Debate: Islam and human rights conducted byHuman Rights Centre

On 14th January 2015, Human Rights Centre conducted a worth and treasured debate on human rights and Islam that was aimed to discuss and debate in-depth the concept of universality of human rights and Islam. The debate was open and was participated by different groups of the society including, sheikhs, academics and university students from Gollis University, University of Hargeisa, Alpha University and Admas University.

Human rights is sometimes controversial subject. There is a worldwide debate between universality and cultural relativism of human rights. In Somaliland, there is an argument regarding Islam and human rights. Is human rights contrary to Islam? Are the two compatible?

There were two debaters, Mohamoud Jama Ahmed (Hamdi), the dean of School of Social Science and Law at Gollis University, and Abdikarim Sheik Mohamoud, lawyer at the Ministry of Justice and Imam in a mosque. Both have a background of Islamic teaching.

Mohamoud argues that human rights are compatible with Islam and rejects attempts to mirror human rights with Islam, saying that there is no need to seek Qur’anic reference for everything. He asserts that Islam allows the Muslims to accept everything that is good irrespective of the source. For that reason he says “the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which is the basis for human rights shall be adapted as a document carrying principles that should be respected by all human beings”.

Abdikarim, in his part, contends that Islam has its own set of human rights based on Sharia point of view. Therefore, he argues, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or any other human rights document shall not be accepted as a whole, but the contents of each article need to be balanced and referenced with Sharia.

Hamse Abdilaahi, a student at New Generation University who is interested in human rights, claimed that the Muslim world shall base its human rights protection on Cairo Declaration. He believes that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are grounded on the liberal democracy of the West and as such unacceptable.

 In response to that, one of the participants emphasised that human rights are universal and need not be rejected on the basis of where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was first drafted as a document. He says that what matters most is what this document says. Mohamoud also believes that human rights are not Western matter or of origin of one civilization.

 Because the debate was open to all the participants, who were most of them young university students or graduates, the discussion was more academic. Even the participants debated the term ‘human rights’ itself.

Lastly, the debate seemed to establish a common ground which recognized that human rights as a general concept reflects on the protection of the rights, dignity and honour of human beings and prohibition of any violations.

Finally, after very tough and sensitive debate, each side agreed upon that Islam has fully granted rights to the human beings. However, the participants differed the source of human rights and the role and legitimacy of the international human rights instruments.

The main objective of this public debate was to reduce the gap by providing space to everybody who is willing to contribute his/her idea about Islam and human rights, a rarely discussed publicly subject. The idea was to boost a culture of debate and tolerance so that key issues affecting the lives of the people are discussed openly and freely.

Human Rights Centre is nongovernment human rights watchdog based in Hargeisa, Somaliland.

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Ms. Mulaaho Mohamed Ali

Spokesperson of Human Rights Centre