Friday, 7 October 2011

Letters in the Independent: Islam on Rights and Responsibilities

The Independent (20 August 2011) published a letter by Professor Robert A Hinde of St John's College, Cambridge entitled "Islam has lessons on rights and duties, and our responsibilities":

The recent riots indicate that we have not got the correct balance between citizens' rights and their duties. Perhaps we have something to learn from Islam.

The Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights (1981) differs in some ways from the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) that are controversial. But one difference is highly significant in the present context.

Apart from a vague reference to acting in a "spirit of brotherhood" (Article 1) and to undefined "duties to the community" (Article 29) the UN Declaration has no reference to the responsibilities that must accompany rights.

By contrast, the Islamic Declaration mentions, among others, the duties to protest against injustice, to defend the rights of others, to protest against oppression, to search after truth and to respect the religious feelings of others. It also gives the poor entitlement to a share in the wealth of the rich and insists that all means of production should be utilised in the interests of the community.

For a harmonious society, citizens must recognise that rights cannot exist without responsibilities and that they, by enjoying the benefits of citizenship, carry responsibilities to the community.

Reciprocally, of course, the community has the responsibility to ensure that citizens have the opportunity to exercise their rights.

The original letter is here.

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