Beyond a liberal secular Western notion of "human rights"

Human Rights as theoretically conceived in blueprint form is obviously a great idea. However, the secular Western liberal "Enlightenment" assumptions of human rights are problematic because of their universalization of specifically Western secular values and ontologies. Joseph Massad unpacked the animating racist assumptions behind liberalism in the West vis-a-vis its own juxtaposition with Islam as its Other in his book Islam in Liberalism. This book is a must-read.
Be that as it may, conceptually human rights can be conceived outside and beyond any Western Liberal secular humanist Enlightenment ontological trajectory of the concept. The argument can be made for the notion of human rights existing in both the Abrahamic scriptures as well as the scriptures of other traditions.

All of that aside, in the present era classical liberalism has shown itself now to be an obsolete ideology which has morphed into something else while simultaneously being among the efficient causes for this present generation's rise of fascism. This places many conventional human rights advocates in a conundrum, but a conundrum which I believe to be an opportunity for said advocates to come out of the ideological straitjackets of Western secular universalizations of the concept and so now take the concept to new levels where it is also cleansed of many of its poison pills. To that end, no contemporary human rights discourse can fail to place the entire structure and operation of Western neoliberal capitalism under its critical lens. Any failure to do so ipso facto negates the claims to a genuine human rights discourse and instead makes such advocates hypocritical mouthpieces of Western elites, neo-colonialism and capitalism.


For example, I find the notion in the Qur'an about the human being as God's vicegerent and caretaker of the earth rich with implications. This means that the notion of rights needs to be extended beyond merely humans as well and also be inclusive of other lifeforms on this planet whose rights should also be recognized and protected. As it stands at the moment, Western secular liberalism qua human rights does not accord animals, plants, minerals and bacteriological lifeforms any notion of rights and implicitly holds that they should not be accorded them because humans are seen to be superior lifeforms who can exploit everything upon this planet at will. This needs to change.

Popular Posts