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The main western values can be summarized as follows: (1) men and women are equal before the law (equal rights and duties) and from 18 years of age they have sovereignty over their person, including their sexuality. (2) Muslims and non-Muslims are subject to the same laws. (3) There is freedom of religion and conscience, so you can choose and change your religion or have no religion at all.

Shariah in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

Below, we give the main reasons why the Shariah is in conflict with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and why the Islamic countries (united in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, OIC) drew up the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam. The Cairo Declaration states that all legislation is subject to the Shariah, which cancels significant portions of its own statements.

Most Islamic countries also apply this trick in their legislation. They have a constitution similar to that of most Western countries, then they add a note that all laws are subordinate to the Shariah: thus they cancel a lot of the freedoms provided in the Constitution while still giving out a "moderate" image. Few people have any idea what Shariah actually means.

While the UDHR states that all people are
free and equal:

Article 1

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

... the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam starts by saying that the Islamic community, the Ummah, which means the Muslims, are superior to non-Muslims. The Islamic countries united in the OIC divide the world into Muslims and non-Muslims and state that Islam should be imposed on the world, subtly phrased as "to guide all humanity":

Reaffirming the civilizing and historical role of the Islamic Ummah which Allah made as the best community and which gave humanity a universal and well-balanced civilization, in which harmony is established between hereunder and the hereafter, knowledge is combined with faith, and to fulfill the expectations from this community to guide all humanity which is confused because of different and conflicting beliefs and ideologies and to provide solutions for all chronic problems of this materialistic civilization.

This is immediately followed by the classic statement that everything is subordinate to the Shariah:

In contribution to the efforts of mankind to assert human rights, to protect man from exploitation and persecution, and to affirm his freedom and right to a dignified life in accordance with the Islamic Shari'ah.

While Article 1 of the UDHR states that "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights" the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam limits this to freedom and human dignity as defined and limited by the Shariah. It does not say all people have equal rights. This is no coincidence because the Shariah accords different rights to men and women and also to Muslims and non-Muslims. Since Islam has not abolished slavery, and Shariah manuals published in the 21st century still abound with legislation concerning slaves, the Cairo Declaration does not say that all men are free:

(a) All human beings form one family whose members are united by their subordination to Allah and descent from Adam. All men are equal in terms of basic human dignity and basic obligations and responsibilities, without any discrimination on the basis of race, colour, language, belief, sex, religion, political affiliation, social status or other considerations. The true religion is the guarantee for enhancing such dignity along the path to human integrity.

Here it is claimed that everybody, in their original state, is a Muslim. This is another statement that gives Islam the right to determine what someone's religion is, while Article 18 of the UDHR, in contrast guarantees freedom of religion.

The Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam further states that:

(a) Life is a God-given gift and the right to life is guaranteed to every human being. It is the duty of individuals, societies and states to safeguard this right against any violation, and it is prohibited to take away life except for a shari'ah prescribed reason.

In other words, nobody should be killed unless the Shariah provides a reason for killing them. And the list of such reasons is long. We refer to the Shariah manual "Reliance of the Traveller" according to the Shafi'i school with a certificate of approval of the Al-Azhar University in Cairo. The killing of a human being is lawful in the following cases:

- § o1.1 in retaliation for the killing of a Muslim (not a non-Muslim!) (§ o1.2 (2))
- § o8.1 as punishment for apostasy from Islam. (Someone who kills an apostate, is himself not punished!) (§ o1.2 (3) and § o8.3)
- § o8.7 (4) as punishment for insulting Muhammad or Allah
- § o8.7 (16) as punishment for insulting Islam
- § o12.0 for adultery by a married person
- § o12.0 as punishment for homosexual acts
- § o9.9 as punishment for a non-Muslim (who is neither Christian nor Jew) captured during Jihad and who refuses to become Muslim

- The death penalty can also be applied to:
- § o11.10 (1) a non-Muslim who commits adultery or has a sexual relationship with a muslim woman
- § o11.10 (2) a person who brings a Muslim away from his faith
- § o11.10 (5) a non-Muslim who insults Islam

While the UDHR states that all people have equal rights:

Article 2

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

... the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam says this is not applicable to women, who, it suggests “have their own rights”:

(a) Woman is equal to man in human dignity, and has her own rights to enjoy as well as duties to perform, and has her own civil entity and financial independence, and the right to retain her name and lineage.

(b) The husband is responsible for the maintenance and welfare of the family.

The rights of women in Islam amount to having no responsibilities and being dependent on a man, whether the spouse, father or brother. In exchange they have to obey, and if need be they can be beaten. A woman does not sign her own marriage contract and can be divorced at any time.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights prohibits inhuman punishments:

Article 5

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam also prohibits inhuman punishments ... except (of course) where the Shariah prescribes them:


(d) Safety from bodily harm is a guaranteed right. It is the duty of the state to safeguard it, and it is prohibited to breach it without a Shari'ah-prescribed reason.

The Shariah includes punishments such as: amputation for theft, flogging or stoning for "illicit" sexual activities, crucifixion for waging war against Allah and Muhammad (Quran verse 5.33). There is also the death penalty for apostasy, for criticism of Islam ...

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights everyone is equal before the law:

Article 7

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
As mentioned above, the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam does not recognize equal rights for women, stating in Article 6 that women have their own exclusive rights.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to marry and that this requires the consent of both parties:

Article 16

1. Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

2. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.  

Regarding the right to marriage, the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam leaves out the "absence of restrictions on grounds of religion" as well as the ”full consent of the intending spouses”:

(a) The family is the foundation of society, and marriage is the basis of making a family. Men and women have the right to marriage, and no restrictions stemming from race, colour or nationality shall prevent them from exercising this right.

Religion has been replaced by "colour". According to the Shariah, a Muslim woman may only marry a Muslim man and a Muslim man may only marry a Muslim, Christian or Jewish woman. There are no restrictions based on race or nationality, but a restriction that is not mentioned here is that a woman must have the permission from a male relative or a judge. In the UDHR, this is not the case.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees freedom of religion and conscience:

Article 18

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Free speech, personal honor and reputation are protected by the UDHR, but not ideologies, religions or ideas:

Article 12

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
That Islamic states do not agree with this is shown by the way the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam treats these themes:

Islam is the religion of true unspoiled nature. It is prohibited to exercise any form of pressure on man or to exploit his poverty or ignorance in order to force him to change his religion to another religion or to atheism.

It is believed that Islam is so evidently true that no sensible person would ever leave Islam unless under pressure.

(a) Everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Shari'ah.
1.. Everyone shall have the right to advocate what is right, and propagate what is good, and warn against what is wrong and evil according to the norms of Islamic Shari'ah.
(c) Information is a vital necessity to society. It may not be exploited or misused in such a way as may violate sanctities and the dignity of Prophets, undermine moral and ethical Values or disintegrate, corrupt or harm society or weaken its faith.
(d) It is not permitted to excite nationalistic or doctrinal hatred or to do anything that may be an incitement to any form or racial discrimination.

Freedom of religion and expression are limited to what the Shariah permits. So, you can leave Islam but you cannot tell anyone, and you must certainly not say why you have left Islam. Islam is above any reproach. The Shariah punishments for criticism of Islam are not mild. And this is one reason why Islam is so strong, namely the threat of excessive sanctions against dissident voices. Therefore "reformers" of Islam have an impossible task, to produce a moderate version of Islam. They are either threatened or killed.

We have tried here to examine the compatibility of Islam with the UDHR. The interpretation of Islam presented is that of the diplomats and politicians of the OIC, a group of Islamic states, as reflected in the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam. For a layman it seems the Muslim version of the UDHR corresponds fairly well with the original. Our analysis shows, however, that on some essential points Islam  is not reconcilable with the UDHR.


Islam and Human Rights