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← Human Rights Watch – You are Disgusting!

foundationist's Avatar Jump to comment 26 by foundationist

After having read Roth's essay, I must say I partly agree with danconquer. The part that Maryam objects to, the paragraph called "The proper role of the international community" also says

Looking forward, to promote democratic, rights-respecting governments, the international community should adopt a more principled approach to the region than in the past. That would involve, foremost, clearly siding with democratic reformers even at the expense of abandoning autocratic friends. There is no excuse for any government to tolerate Assad’s lethal repression, to close its eyes to Bahrain’s systematic crackdown, or to exempt other monarchs from pressure to reform. All autocrats should be dissuaded from using repression to defend their power and privileges.

Such principled support for protesters can also positively influence the outlook of the new governments they seek to form. Revolution can be a heady experience, opening previously unthought-of possibilities for the majority to take control of its fate. But the revolutionaries must also accept the constraints on majoritarian rule that rights require, especially when it comes to the rights of minorities, whether political, religious, ethnic or social.

Revolutionary zeal can lead to summary revenge or a new imposed orthodoxy. Continuing economic hardship can lead to scapegoating and intolerance. International affirmation of the importance of respecting the rights of all citizens can help to ensure the emergence of genuine democracies. Conditioning economic assistance on respect for those rights, just as the EU conditioned accession for Eastern European states, can help to steer new governments in rights-respecting directions.

And the call to 'encouraging, and if need be pressuring them to respect basic rights' is by no means an expression of the 'racism of lower expectations' as Maryam calls it. On the contrary, it is precisely what human rights organisations always call for in any country and in all situations. The term 'basic human rights' does not imply "Well, they're just Arabs, we are content if they at least get the basics, while in the West, we expect of course respect for the surplus human rights". The adjective 'basic' just underlies the importance, universality, and, well, basicness of all human rights.

But I must agree with Maryam that the idea of Islamists respecting fundamental human rights seems rather naive and that the comparison with the so-called christian parties in Europe is inappropriate. Roth also uses the time-and-again discredited term "oppression in the name of Islam". I'm no expert on political Islam, but Maryam is. Political Islam is opposed to the very idea of human rights and the different fractions only differ in the extent of their opposition. The so-called "moderates" seem roughly equivalent with the American Christian Right, and I wouldn't want them in power.

But in terms of practical politics I think Roth has it right when he proposes for the time being to just insist on following international law and respecting fundamental human rights and not to fight political Islam itself just because of the principle of the thing. I know that this is a dangerous position to take and I fear what will happen if Roth and I were wrong on this, but I also dread what would happen if the "Clash of Civilizations"-fractions have it their way. It's a tough call and there are no easy answers.

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 13:48:46 UTC | #910901