• UNHRC: “Womens’ rights problems? Not so loud, please!”
United Nations Human Rights Council 25 July 2011
By David G. Littman, June 6th & 10th 2011
In this speech in the UN Human Rights Council, David G. Littman points out discrimination against women directly and documentably sanctioned by Islamic law. President Phuangketkeow responds by requesting more ‘sensitivity’ in matters where religion is involved, womens’ rights has distinctly lower priority than showing ‘understanding’ for religion.
In his follow-up speech on June 10th, Littman reminds the assembly that such demands constitute an undermining of the universality of human rights, that The idea of “Cultural relativism” is nothing but an excuse to violate human rights, and demonstrates his precise and well-documented understanding of Islamic doctrine by quoting current Islamic scholars endorsing the practice of trading sex slaves in the free market.
Original script below, elaborations not spoken are in brackets, :
Thank you, sir. In April 2009 the Islamic Fiqh Academy, established by the OIC [Organization of the Islamic Conference] in 1981, issued a ruling entitled ‘Domestic Violence’. This is a significant document that reflects a consensus of leading Islamic scholars in the world regarding the treatment of women.
[It was clearly issued in the context of criticisms of Islam and Muslim societies]
[IFA’s resolutions in Arabic are on the Fiqh Academy website.
English translation attached.]*
[The Islamic Fiqh Academy (IFA), under the OIC’s wing, is comprised of 43 scholars, elite Islamic jurists of their respective countries — and many are chief justices or grand muftis.] [IFA’s aims are clearly stated in this ruling and we shall only refer to the essential points:
to unite the Ummah (the global Muslim community, conceived of as a single nation, by conforming conduct to the norms of Islam at all levels (from individual to international);
to apply Islam to contemporary problems; and to create a body of Islamic jurisprudence to meet the needs of modern life.]
[Undoubtedly, the Islamic Fiqh Academy speaks for the Islamic mainstream. In the words of Dr Abdul-Salam Al-Abbadi, Secretary-General of IFA, it is intended to function as the “supreme juristic reference for the Muslim world.” IFA’s rulings have OIC’s full backing.]
This fatwa represents the dogmatic assertion of the absolute authority of the sharia over all understandings of human rights as they apply to women and the family, including International Human Rights Conventions and Covenants. In it, Islamic States of the OIC are instructed to ignore every article of any Convention or Covenant which is inconsistent with the sharia.
I will quote some examples from this ruling:
Not considered to be ‘violence’ or ‘discriminatory’ are:
The criminalization of homosexuality.
A husband forbidding his wife from travelling alone, except with his permission and in accordance with the sharia.
Legal guardianship over a virgin female in [entering into a contract for her] marriage.
Sir, this applies to the ‘marriage’ of girl child under 10 to an 80 year old man, as in a recent case covered in the media.
Polygamy [up to 4 wives].
Regarding “a disobedient wife who has exalted herself against her husband [by disobeying him]… commence with admonishing her, then [sexual] abandonment [of the wife], and ending with non-violent beating.”
At the State level, all governments are enjoined to review agreements that have been signed and “to reject any articles of international agreements and conventions which are contrary to the provisions of sharia law… such as advocating full equality between male and female in [family] inheritance.
Mr President, this fatwa has been in circulation for over 2 years, is backed by the most eminent and credible of Muslim jurists, yet it has not yet been addressed by UN Human Rights bodies, particularly this Council. Why the continuing silence on the contradictions between the International Bill of Human Rights and the OIC’s Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam (1), which we have raised here over the past twenty years — all to no avail?
Thank you, Mr. President.
The President [verbatim from UN webcast]: Thank you. Can I remind the speaker that you know we’re here to discuss human rights issues and when we raise issues of religion I think we have to do so with sensitivity and understanding… sensitivity… I hope that the speaker will be mindful of this when he takes the floor next time.
Follow-up speech on June 10th, now with more ‘understanding’ and ‘sensitivity’:
World Union for Progressive Judaism
UN Human Rights Council – 17th Session (30 May -17 June 2011)
President: H. E. Ambassador Sihasak Phuangketkeow (Thailand)
Representative David G. LITTMAN–Friday (2:15 p.m.), 10 June 2011
Follow-up to and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action:
Integrating the human rights of women throughout the United Nations system (item 8)
Violence against women and related taboo subjects at the Human Rights Council
[Only the words in bold were pronounced in the 2 minutes speaking time for NGOs.]
Sir, we understand that when raising the issue of religion and human rights we need to do so with sensitivity. But this should not, surely, lead us into a paralysis of self-censorship when certain religious beliefs threaten the universality of human rights. (1)
On this sensitive subject, we shall again quote two recognized human rights experts. In 2003, Radhika Coomaraswamy, stressing the integrity of the UDHR [Universal Declaration of Human Rights] & the International Covenants, condemned cultural relativism in her Final ‘Violence against Women’ Commission Report: “The greatest challenge to women’s rights & the elimination of discriminatory laws and harmful practices comes from the doctrine of cultural relativism.” (2)
In 2008, in her 60th anniversary UDHR lecture, Noble Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi declared: “The idea of cultural relativism is nothing but an excuse to violate human rights.” [She condemned the fact that in Iran a girl is considered an adult & liable to punishment, even execution, at 9 and a boy at 15.]
Only last week, a popular Egyptian preacher, Abu Ishaq al-Huwaini, confirmed on Egyptian TV [Hikma] what he had said 18 years ago that: Jihad still justifies plundering, enslaving and raping the infidels – for which he provided quotations from sacred texts in justification. He even boasted that Islam allows Muslims to buy and sell conquered infidel women, adding: “When I want a sex-slave, I go to the market and pick whichever female I desire and buy her.” (3).And last weekend, a political activist and former parliamentary candidate for Kuwait’s government, Salwa al-Mutairi, expressed her religious opinion to “revive the institution of sex-slavery.”(4)
It is 3 years since a 1½ hour landmark event [also known as the ‘Sharia-gate Shipwreck’] occurred at the Council in reaction to our joint statement on ‘violence against women’ [item 8]. (5)
We had begun by once again condemning FGM [– the barbaric female genital mutilation of @ 3 million young girls every year in 32 countries, 29 of which are members of the OIC; the stoning of women; honour killing and the marriage-sale of 9 year-old-girls – all carried out in the name either of ‘traditional practices’ or ‘cultural relativism’, but with irrefutable religious connections.]
And we remain convinced that such crimes, carried out ‘traditionally’, but also with official religious sanction (6), should not be treated as taboo subjects at the Council. The growing phenomenon of ‘cultural relativism’ should not be supported by self-censorship at the UN, [especially not under the guise of ‘complementary standards’ or ‘sensitivity and understanding’.] It is surely time for more States, especially OIC countries, and NGOs to condemn here all such barbaric practices against women – for whatever reason. We appeal to both the Council and the High Commissioner to reconsider this matter seriously and put an end to the silence. In the words of Shakespeare’s Othello: Silence that dreadful bell [Act ii, scene 3]
Thank you, Mr President.
1) When finishing our statement in the general debate under item 3: ‘Violence against women’, the President commented: “Thank you. Can I remind the speaker that you know we’re here to discuss human rights issues and when we raise issues of religion I think we have to do so with sensitivity and understanding… sensitivity…I hope that the speaker will be mindful of this when he takes the floor next time.” (verbatim from the UN webcast)
2) 9th and Final Report: E/CN.4/2003/75, section VII: Religious Extremism & Harmful Traditional Practices. §61 /§62. Ms Radhika Coomaraswamy is the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict.
3) See article by Raymond Ibrahim for the details on Abu Ishaq al-Huwaini videos http://www.meforum.org/2930/muslim-woman-seeks-to-revive-institution-of-…
4) See Kuwait Times for a brief description of Salwa al-Mutairi’s statement. UNICEF estimates that 1.8 million children enter the commercial sex trade annually. See also the moving article by Nicholas D Kristof, “10-year-old girls for sale” (International Herald Tribune / Global Edition of the New York Times, p. 7), in which he states that “India is the center of the 21st-century slave trade.”
5) 8th Session, 16 June 2008. DGL speaking jointly for the AWE and the IHEU. We were immediately stopped on a ‘point of order’ by a Member State delegate (Egypt), who later declared, on a point of order, followed by two dozen more points of order, a forty minute, and then a five minute recess, that “Islam will not be crucified at this Council.” The President privately informed the speaker not to pronounce the word ‘sharia’ again at the Council.
6) See E/CN.4/Sub.2/2005/NGO/27: Background on “Traditional or Customary Practices” /Female Genital Mutilation and the Arabic text (and translations), certified by Al-Azhar University, authoritative source for the Shafi’i school of Sunni law, widely adhered to.
See our appendix with the exact translation from the Arabic of the relative religious text.
Posted July 26th, 2011 by hrc