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Islam and Human Rights (LAWS90098)

Graduate courseworkPoints: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2017
Subject levelGraduate coursework
Subject codeLAWS90098
Availability(Quotas apply)
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

Since September 11, 2001, many questions have been raised about Islam and its relationship with human rights. 'Is Islam violent?' 'Why do Muslims hate freedom?' This subject explores how human rights and Islam came to be seen as oppositional. Through an examination of fatwas calling for non-violence, human rights advocacy calling for greater awareness of Islam and others calling to 'ban' Muslims, the subject will bring together the multiple, interlacing discourses that have produced this opposition. It explores how Islamic scholars have sought to synthesise Islamic laws with human rights, and how activists tread a fine line between criticism of religion and advocacy of human rights. The subject provides an introduction to Islamic law, an exploration of the jurisprudence of freedom of religion, a study of the international norms that come into tension with religious tenets, and an assessment of the impact of Islamic, human rights and constitutional laws on current conceptualisations of Islam and human rights.

Principal topics include:

  • The history of freedom of religion in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and constitutions across the world
  • An introduction to Islamic law with a focus on the example of the legitimacy (or non-legitimacy) of engaging in violence – also known in the media as 'Jihad', as well as an exploration of minority rights in Muslim nations
  • A study of the interaction between Islamic legal and human rights discourses and their impact on Muslims and non-Muslims in both Western and Muslim-majority nation-states.
  • Introduction of the complexities of Islamic law and its variation across nation-states in the Muslim world
  • The history of how the tension between human rights and Islam emerged in the late 20th century
  • An analysis of how human rights are deployed by politicians, the media and academics in Western and Muslim-majority nation-states
  • A study of the rise of Islamophobia in the 21st century, and the complicated ways in which Islamophobia is articulated in the language of human rights.

Intended learning outcomes

A student who has successfully completed this subject will:

  • Attain a holistic understanding of Islamic legal principles and their relationship with human rights
  • Understand the relevant international instruments applicable to appreciating the relationship between human rights and Islamic law
  • Gain a complex appreciation of how the relationship between human rights and Islam is conceptualized by politicians, media, and academics in Western societies and within Muslim majority nation-states
  • Have a deep understanding of freedom of religion through an exploration of human rights jurisprudence in nations worldwide
  • Acquire the skills to critically examine the relationship between Islamic legal concepts and human rights concepts, and the potential tensions (as they have been conceptualized in contemporary human rights scholarship), with a focus on political violence and minority rights
  • Have a sophisticated appreciation of the complex discourses that have led Islam and human rights to be cast as oppositional
  • Understand the rise of Islamophobia in contemporary discourses through an examination of its history, and the social, cultural, and intellectual forms that it takes globally
  • Appreciate the history of how Islam and Islamic ideas have impacted, altered, and rearticulated human rights conceptions
  • Be able to discuss opportunities to reconceptualise human rights to accommodate Islamic principles in the contemporary period
  • Deepen their understandings of the universality – cultural relativity debates.

Last updated: 11 January 2018