What is the value of Sharia law

Human rights

Anne Duncker

To person

Dr. Anne Duncker studied political science, public law and religious studies in Germany and the USA and received her doctorate from the Philipps University of Marburg. The title of her dissertation is "Human Rights Organizations in Turkey". Duncker is a lecturer at the Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg. She grew up in Istanbul and now lives in Berlin.

Is a Western ideal of human rights realized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Representatives of Muslim countries and organizations in particular question the general validity of the document. The Islamic declarations place Sharia, Islamic law, above all other rights.

Prayer in a London mosque (& copy AP)

Human rights, as enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of 1948, claim to be equally valid everywhere in the world, at all times and for all people. In the years following the publication of the declaration, however, there was an increasing number of critical voices who saw a specifically Western ideal of human rights realized in the declaration. In addition to critics from Asian and African countries, it was mainly Muslim representatives who questioned the general validity of the document. With the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Islam", published in 1981 by the Islamic Council for Europe, and the "Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam", published in 1990 by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, two Islamic counter-drafts to the UN Declaration were submitted.

The Islamic declarations make the Sharia, Islamic law, as the basis and horizon of interpretation for all other rights. In both declarations, collective rights are given a much higher priority than in the declaration of the United Nations. This can be interpreted to mean that the good of the community - be it the family or the umma, the community of all Muslims, - should be placed above the individual's well-being in case of doubt. Strengthening and protecting the umma are of great importance in Islam.

Like most other religions, Islam claims that only its beliefs are true and worthy of compliance. The aim is therefore to spread the religion as widely as possible. At the time of Islam's origins, the spread of the religion was also associated with a claim to political power. If necessary, had to aim to strengthen the umma individual claims are subordinated. This interpretation is clearly expressed in both Islamic declarations and illustrates the close connection between politics, law and religion in Islam to this day.

Many Islamic states pursue homosexual acts. In seven states with Sharia law - Iran, Yemen, Mauritania, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Sudan - homosexual acts are punishable by the death penalty.
Source: The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)

In addition, the Islamic documents emphasize the connection between rights and obligations. Many duties are linked to the well-being of the community. Duties include protecting the family and serving the community, preserving cultural heritage, and exercising individual rights, such as the right to education or work, in order to contribute to the common good. The right to free development of the personality - for example by deciding Not to work or no Starting a family - according to the conservative Islamic understanding of human rights, therefore only applies to a limited extent. Community rights and obligations towards the community can thus weaken the rights of the individual. At the same time, they can give protection to the individual and strengthen his or her wellbeing. For example, it is difficult for many Muslims to understand that in many Western societies it is customary to place old people in an old people's home for care instead of looking after them in the family.

Conflicts between the Western and Islamic understanding of human rights are not only made clear by means of legal texts, but also by means of many questions that concern the media, politics and sometimes the judiciary in Germany every day: Are men and women equal in Islam? Are Muslims and non-Muslims given equal rights? Is wearing the headscarf an expression of religious freedom? Does a forced marriage conform to Sharia law? These are not abstract, theological considerations - but concrete questions that are crucial for a peaceful coexistence of religions and cultures.

For many non-Muslims, the term "Sharia" has a negative connotation: They primarily associate it with drastic corporal punishment or the unequal treatment of women and men. Even if these can be aspects of Sharia, it is much broader and more complex. Pious Muslims see it as a positive guide that can help them in all situations to act in accordance with Islam. The Sharia lays down numerous rules for everyday life: when and how ritual prayer is to be performed, what food and drinks are allowed, how Muslims have to dress, what to observe and consider in the event of marriage, inheritance or divorce how to deal with members of other religions. The extent to which Muslims adhere to these regulations naturally depends - as in all religions - on the piety of each individual.