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Varieties of Muslim ExperienceEncounters with Arab Political and Cultural Life$
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Lawrence Rosen

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780226726168

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226726182.001.0001

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Power and Culture in the Acceptance of “Universal” Human Rights

Power and Culture in the Acceptance of “Universal” Human Rights

(p.169) Twelve Power and Culture in the Acceptance of “Universal” Human Rights
Varieties of Muslim Experience
University of Chicago Press

Given the enormous variation in the world's cultures, is it really possible to generate a set of shared, indeed universal, human rights that are substantively meaningful? In the Arab world—where the situation of women or illegitimate children may vary widely from practices in the West, or where the publication of comments deemed insulting to a ruler or the Prophet may bring severe punishments—can common standards be framed without doing violence to one or another of the cultures involved? Two forces may affect the universalization of human rights: the power of culture, which tends toward new category creation (largely local but potentially incorporative), and the culture of power, in which the fissioning tendency of new categorizations may, under certain circumstances, yield to the ever more inclusive. To many Westerners, the treatment by Muslims of women, religious minorities, and alleged criminals may seem to contravene “universal” human rights. In principle, human rights and Islam are in no sense incompatible.

Keywords:   universal human rights, Arab world, West, power, culture, Muslims, Islam

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