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In the last few years, issues related to human rights, including encouraging the democratization of Muslim societies from the Middle East to Southeast Asia, have acquired great importance in shaping the character of U.S.-Muslim relations and U.S. policy toward Muslim countries. An important impetus behind this development were the tragic events of 9/11, which demonstrated the destructive potential of militant groups that use a distorted interpretation of Islam as justification for their actions. These events also led to a greater realization by the United States--and the West--that a lack of democracy and lack of respect for human rights have been contributory factors to the rise of militant Islam.
Consequently, in its approach toward the Muslim world, the United States has emphasized the themes of human rights and democracy. Within the Islamic world, too, both secular and moderate Islamists have begun focusing on issues related to human rights. Although many conservative Muslims believe that Islam is incompatible with Western notions of democracy and human rights, reformist Muslim thinkers and activists maintain that a proper reading of Islamic injunctions and the ethical values underpinning those injunctions shows there is no such incompatibility. Complicating the debate is the fact that many Muslims--secular as well as conservative and reformist--doubt the seriousness of the U.S. commitment to the cause of human rights and democracy in the Muslim world, believing that the United States applies human rights' standards selectively to suit its strategic and economic interests. Irrespective of the validity of these charges, they are part of the context of the U.S.-Muslim dialogue on human rights. And it is this complex dialogue that this volume seeks to advance.
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Shireen T. Hunter is director of the Islam Program at CSIS. Huma Malik is deputy director of the Islam Program at CSIS.Review:
These state-of-the-art essays represent a major advance in the conversation on Islam and human rights. With an innovative blend of historical, conceptual, and geopolitical perspectives, Islam and Human Rights claims a distinct place for itself by its well-integrated coverage of relevant issues. . . . Invaluable to scholars and policymakers. (Peter Mandaville, Director, Center for Global Studies, George Mason University)
The distinguished authors dispassionately analyse an emotive subject and offer a constructive guide to how Muslims themselves can advance a progressive agenda and the United States can reconcile its interests and ideals. . . . Speaks thoughtfully to the concerns of policymakers, journalists, and the informed public. (James Piscatori, Fellow, Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies)
. . . one of the timeliest books to come along since September 11. Bringing together the most important scholars in the field, it convincingly demonstrates that progress in dealing with U.S.-Muslim relations, democratization, and terrorism requires consistency in promoting human rights. (Tamara Sonn, Professor of Humanities, College of William & Mary)
This concise and timely book offers some of the most insightful analyses and policy recommendations concerning the present state of tension between the United States and the Muslim world. . . . Must reading for human rights advocates. (Nayereh Tohidi, Research Associate, UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies)
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