ISLAM AND HUMAN RIGHTS: STATUS OF WOMEN IN POST REVOLUTION IRAN
The historical relation between human right and world’s major religions has been substantial, complex, and fascinating, especially with respect to the dominant monotheistic religions (Bloom, Martin, and proudfoot, 1996). The modern formulation of human rights grew under the influence of western Christianity and Judaism (Henkin, 1998). However, after the second world war the drafters of the various international human rights instruments, working under the auspices of UN Economic and Social council and its human rights commission (Morsink, 1999), begun to use secular language to rise above the particularities of individual religious and ethical traditions.
Though the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is called `Universal`, it was articulated along the lines of historical trends of the Western World during the last three centuries, and a certain philosophical anthropology of individualistic humanism helped them to justify it (Panikkar,1989:31). According to Panikkar (1989), the basic assumption underlying the Universal Declaration of Human Right of 1948 were of a universal human nature common to all people, of the dignity of the individual, and of democratic social order. In the decade since the Declaration, the term Human Right has become an integral part of both political and popular discourse, particularly amongst western-educated persons. In fact, it is frequently assumed, as well as stated, by many advocates of human rights, in both western and non western (including many Muslim) countries, that human rights can exist only within a secular context and not within the framework of religions (Henkin, 1998:230-231).
However, since the late 1970s there has been a growing interest in the West in the relationship between Islam and Human right. Islam, one of the world`s major religions, “is not just a collection of beliefs and spiritual values; it also incorporates a legal and cultural system to which all its adherents conform” (Qutb, 2001:28). The relation between Islam and human rights has received a great deal of attention in the academic and policy literature (Muedini, 2010:1). Within the overall dialogue of Islam in international affairs, Islam has been perceived as containing different ideologies and laws within one encompassing entity. This can be seen in a number of matters; the different sects in Islam, the various schools of interpretation and different regions and cultures where Islam has flourished all suggests a number of beliefs and approaches to particulars questions regarding the human rights discourses. Such interpretations of Islamic laws are offered by different schools of jurisprudence in Islam that are not only focused on theological and spiritual elements of Islam, but also serve a role in establishing positions on human rights implementation in Muslim states and communities (An-Naim, 1990). Literature within the field of human rights and Islam has included research on specific issues such as Islam, women, and human rights in specific country (Kamilian, 2005).
The status of women in society is neither a new issue nor is it a fully settled one (Badawi, 1995). Women`s status in Islam is one of the most controversial and serious issues of our time, not only among Muslim women and those who represent them in the area of women`s rights in the Islamic world, but also among fundamentalist Muslims (Dagher, 1997:1). Some cover Islam`s achievements for the women, maintaining that it was Islam that gave the women her rights and honor, while other blame all the disadvantages in the position of Muslim women on Islam.
Iran is nearly three millennia old (Kamiar, 2007). Ancient Greeks referred to Iran as “Persia,” and for the next several centuries, the w orld followed suits. In 1935, Reza Shah, the ruler of Iran at the time, asked the world to call Iran by its proper, indigenous name instead of Persia (Kamiar, 2007; Yarshater, 1989). Islam came to Iran with the Islamic conquest of Caliph Umar in the seventh century (Choksy, 2003).