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Nobel Prize for Peace to Shirin Ebadi
an article by Naushad Dada

This year the Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Prize to Shirin Ebadi.

The prize to Shirin Ebadi comes as an extremely pleasant surprise both at a personal level and I think, at the level of the Muslim Ummah. It not only acknowledges her unrelenting work in human rights in Iran midst an "un-enabling" environment, but it also exemplifies Islamic values in upholding deeply entrenched ideas of justice and equity within the ethical dimension of Islam.

In this day and age where religious, political and cultural ideologies of economically and militarily powerful societies are imposed on others, there is hope for people seeking to promote and live in a world where human rights and just societies are a constant struggle, that activists like Shirin Ebadi are examples that they can relate and refer to.

Within a context of a distorted view of human rights, and in particular gender rights, the Nobel prize given to a Muslim woman, illustrates the seriousness that the committee attaches in dispelling notions that people living within Islamic regimes are accepting of the existing legal and ethical dimensions. It attaches great importance to people who spend their entire life in the service of creating a world that respects the dignity of human beings.

To broaden the idea of what Shirin Ebadi may be eluding to, and further for Muslim societies to maintain a balance between its history and heritage and contemporary conditions, I would like to quote the following paragraph from the speech made His Highness The Aga Khan at the twenty fifth year celebration of the IIS (Institute of Ismaili Studies) in London, England:

"It is not a simple matter for any human society with a concern and appreciation of its history to relate its heritage to its contemporary conditions. Traditions evolve in a context, and the context always changes, thus demanding a new understanding of essential principles. For us Muslims, this is one of the pressing challenges we face. In what voice or voices can Islamic heritage speak to us afresh - a voice true to the historical experience of the Muslim world yet, at the same time, relevant in the technically advanced but morally turbulent and uncertain world of today ?"


Question(s) related to this article:

What does Shirin Ebadi have to say to people in the West?,

In what voice or voices can Islamic heritage speak to us today,, yet relevant to our technically advanced but morally turbulent world?

* * * * *


In her Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Shirin Ebadi began by addressing the significance of her prize for the rights of women in the Middle East.

Then she turned her attention to the hypocrisy of the West when it comes to human rights. . . .

"At the same time, in the past two years, some states have violated the universal principles and laws of human rights by using the events of 11 September and the war on international terrorism as a pretext.

The United Nations General Assembly Resolution 57/219, of 18 December 2002, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1456, of 20 January 2003, and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights Resolution 2003/68, of 25 April 2003, set out and underline that all states must ensure that any measures taken to combat terrorism must comply with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights and humanitarian law. However, regulations restricting human rights and basic freedoms, special bodies and extraordinary courts, which make fair adjudication difficult and at times impossible, have been justified and given legitimacy under the cloak of the war on terrorism.

The concerns of human rights' advocates increase when they observe that international human rights laws are breached not only by their recognized opponents under the pretext of cultural relativity, but that these principles are also violated in Western democracies, in other words countries which were themselves among the initial codifiers of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It is in this framework that, for months, hundreds of individuals who were arrested in the course of military conflicts have been imprisoned in Guantanamo, without the benefit of the rights stipulated under the international Geneva conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the [United Nations] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. . ...more.

This report was posted on October 24, 2003.