02 March 2010

Book on Islamic political theology and human rights

Again a book that in early announcements bore "political theology" in the (working) title, but which for unexplained reasons was ultimately published under another title. Abdulaziz Sachedina's new book, called "Reform through Human Rights: Islamic Political Theology" early last year, was published by Oxford University Press as "Islam and the Challenge of Human Rights" in November 2009:


Publisher's description: "Whether Islam is compatible with human rights in general, and with the Declaration of Human Rights in particular, has been both a Muslim issue and a concern of the international community. Muslim rulers, Western analysts and policymakers, and Muslim extremists as well as conservative Muslims, have often agreed for diverse reasons that Islam and human rights cannot co-exist. In this book Aziz Sachedina argues for the essential compatibility of Islam and human rights. He offers a balanced and incisive critique of leading Western experts who ignore or marginalize the relationship of religion to human rights. At the same time, he re-examines the inherited tradition that forms the basis of conservative Muslim objections, arguing that it is culturally conditioned and therefore open to development and change. Finally, and most importantly, Sachedina delineates a fresh contemporary Muslim position that argues for a correspondence between Islam and secular concepts of human rights, grounded in sacred sources as well as Islamic history and thought."

Excerpts: "Islamic political theology involves metaphysics and carries an underlying assumption that revelation-based certainty guides the move from the ontological-theological level to the ethical-political to create the ideal public order. [...] [T]he emergence of a new
theological-ethical vision of politics among traditionalist interpreters of political theology is basically different from the classically formulated political society in that the new vision of public order is nationalistic as well as self-deterministic. [...] The most critical challenge facing the traditional leadership is to search for an inclusive political theology that no longer discriminates by faith to determine an individual's rights and duties. [...] Islamic political theology from its early inception provided religious legitimacy to existing social and political structures by insisting upon certain extraneous characteristics to the public order under divinely ordained legal norms. [...] I undertake to analyze diverse interpretations of political theology as they impact upon human rights discourse".

Abdulaziz Sachedina is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia.

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