Are Human Rights Universal

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Are Human Rights universal?

Human rights proponents assert that all human beings are guaranteed certain rights ranging from the right to life and freedom from torture to socio-economic rights such as the right to healthcare and education. The introduction of human rights is a fairly new phenomenon and can be traced back to the French revolution. More recently, following some of the worst events and atrocities of World War II such as the German concentration camps, the Japanese treatment of the Chinese and even the allied bombings of Dresden, the issue of human rights came to the fore of world concern. The modern foundation of what people now view as human rights and the basis of 60 separate human rights instruments was established in the United Nations Universal Declaration for Human Rights (UDHR) on the 10 December 1948. The declaration had big names behind it such as Eleanor Roosevelt who was a big proponent and it was drafted with the cooperation of several different countries not all developed countries but other third world countries such as Chile, Cuba and India partook in the drafting process as well, taking several years to complete. The issue of human rights is often in the news, most recently with the protests in Tibet against Chinese rule and the worldwide protests which followed. According to the west, China has had a long running problem with human rights abuses, for example how it allows people to buy kidneys off political prisoners who have theirs removed without anaesthetic and are then sealed up in a bag and incinerated.[1] Surely that is abhorrent and a condemnation of such acts is the least of what should be done, yet on what basis do we even have the right to question another sovereign country's handling of internal affairs? William Rasch questions whether there can be any universality to human rights given the differences in culture, religion and how genders are treated differently around the world. He claims that “Such identification is not only the essence of Christianity, but also of the doctrine of human rights preached by enthusiasts like Habermas and Rawls. And such identification means that the other is stripped of his otherness and made to conform to the universal ideal of what it means to be human.” In this essay I first intend to examine whether Rasch's claims about Christianity and religion. I will then see whether the human rights doctrine stands up to the differences between people created by culture, religion and gender.

Rasch's accusation that Christianity and presumably other religion's identify others with its own 'ego ideal' may have some adherents in today's secular west. The two religion's I am going to examine in view of Rasch's claim are Christianity and Islam,the two biggest monotheistic religions in the world. In the past instances of Christian's attempting to convert people they had conquered, for example Cortez trying to convert the Aztecs or the actions of Christian missionaries. Similar accusations can be made about Islam. The public perception about religion in the west seems to be a generally negative one. Farhang Jahanpour, an associate of the transnational foundation for peace and future research, he asked his students to make a list of the differences between the west and islam. One of the points on the list one of the students came up with is that “Islam wants to dominate the world, the West believes in coexistence”. This I believe is the same point as Rasch makes. Although the actions of some adherents of these religion's may give the impression that that is the case, the faith's themselves do not seek to dominate the world but they do wish to teach their religion to the whole world. In the Qu'ran it is stated that “2:256 There is no compulsion in religion”. You can not force people to change religion as you can not control what is in their hearts. Christianity and Islam believe in divine law, They see religion as a major part of our lives and the governance...
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