Spirit Matters: A Series Exploring Identity, Religion, and Human Rights

"Human Rights, Universality and Sovereignty in African and Islamic Perspectives"
Abdullahi An-Na’im, Ph.D.

Chapel co-founder Dominique de Menil built her life according to the belief that spiritual forces are of consequence in real world affairs.  She insisted that a capacity for reverence was essential to successfully advancing justice.  And yet, contemporary religious forces often seem to be at odds with human rights concerns. Though the passion for human rights involves a deep commitment to equality of all people and their right to flourish, the underlying legal framework of human rights discourse, with its foundation in enlightenment philosophy, often ignores humankind’s spiritual aspirations and constitution.   Human rights are, in this sense, built upon a discourse of “universality.”  Religion, especially as it intersects with nationalism and culture, is often (though clearly not always) a domain of particularity that highlights difference– the saved and unsaved, believers and unbelievers, us and them.  Speakers in this series will explore the tension between a universal discourse on human rights and the particular claims religion makes on its adherents: in what ways does religion further the promotion of human rights?  In what ways does religion inhibit the promotion of human rights? And how can the conversation transcend a legal framework and remain open to the deepest longings of the human spirit?

Well-known scholars and intellectuals conversant in the world’s philosophical and religious traditions will deliver a series of lectures.  They will represent various faith perspectives in the promotion of human rights and will address a range of human rights concerns.

Abdullahi An-Na’im is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law at Emory University School of Law and serves as the director of the Religion and Human Rights Program at Emory; he is also a senior fellow of Emory's Center for the Study of Law and Religion.  Na’im is an internationally-recognized scholar of Islam and human rights and human rights in cross-cultural perspectives.  Professor An-Na'im teaches courses in international law, comparative law, human rights, and Islamic law. His research interests include constitutionalism in Islamic and African countries, secularism, and Islam and politics.  An-Na’im is the author of numerous books and articles, including Islam and the Secular State (Harvard University Press, 2008).

Saturday, March 19, 2011
2:00 PM

Engage with various faith perspectives in the promotion of human rights.