Ummah’s Rights or Human Rights? Universalism, Individualism, and Islamic Ethics in the Twenty-first Century

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Marie-Luisa Frick



Against the background of the trend of Islamizing human rights on the one hand, as well as increasing skepticism about the compatibility of Islam and human rights on the other, I intend to analyze the potential of Islamic ethics to meet the requirements for vitalizing the idea of human rights. I will argue that the compatibility of Islam and human rights cannot be determined merely on the basis of comparing the specific content of the Islamic moral code(s) with the rights stipulated in the International Bill of Rights, but by scanning (different conceptions of) Islamic ethics for the two indispensable formal prerequisites of any human rights conception: the principle of universalism (i.e., normative equality) and individualism (i.e., the individual enjoyment of rights). In contrast to many contemporary (political) attempts to reconcile Islam and human rights due to urgent (global) societal needs, this contribution is solely committed to philosophical reasoning. Its guiding questions are “What are the conditions for deriving both universalism and individualism from Islamic ethics?” and “What axiological axioms have to be faded out or reorganized hierarchically in return?”

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