Ann Elizabeth Mayer, Islam and Human Rights: Tradition and Politics, Fifth Edition. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2012.
Jadaliyya (J): What made you write this book?
Ann Elizabeth Mayer (AEM): Many things have changed in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region since the first edition of this book, published in the mid-1980s, examined proposed “Islamic” versions of human rights. I wanted to update the earlier versions of this book to take into account new developments in the ongoing contention about Islam and human rights, which has intensified in the wake of the crushing of the Green Movement by Iran’s ruling theocrats and the ascendancy of Islamist factions after the upheavals of the Arab Spring, both of which have intensified the current debates about the merits of including Islamic provisions in constitutions.
Among the recent events meriting examination is the intense international controversy engendered by the Danish Cartoons case and related attempts by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in the UN to win support for injecting a principle in international law criminalizing “defamation of Islam,” which would turn international law into a tool of religious censorship. Also deserving of scrutiny are current efforts in the UN human rights system to expand international human rights law to protect people regardless of their gender identity and sexual orientation. These have been met with fierce opposition by MENA states, which in this, as in some other areas, have managed to forge opportunistic alliances with non-Muslim countries like China and Russia in efforts to stifle plans to strengthen human rights. In consequence, Islamic grounds for challenging human rights are now being combined with others that can appeal to non-OIC members.