Arab Voices: The Human Rights Debate in the Middle East

Arab Voices: The Human Rights Debate in the Middle East

by Kevin Dwyer
     
 

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Although many Westerners claim human rights as a major achievement of Western civilization, Muslims argue just as sincerely that human rights are central to Islam. They argue as well that the West's rhetorical emphasis on human rights cannot hide the fact that within Western society basic human rights are violated every day. Through the use of extensive research and…  See more details below

Overview

Although many Westerners claim human rights as a major achievement of Western civilization, Muslims argue just as sincerely that human rights are central to Islam. They argue as well that the West's rhetorical emphasis on human rights cannot hide the fact that within Western society basic human rights are violated every day. Through the use of extensive research and interview material from Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco, Kevin Dwyer explores what human rights mean to Middle Eastern men and women—lawyers, political militants, religious thinkers, journalists, and human rights activists. The debate ranges widely from the nature of human freedom and human rights organizations to the role of religion in Arab and national identity. The reader gains a strong sense of the complexity and vitality of life in the Middle East today and of the kinds of issues that are at the center of informed discussion there.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
An anthropologist and former head of Amnesty International's Middle East section, Dwyer ( Moroccan Dialogues ) spent six years researching the conceptions and praxis of human rights in three Islamic nations--Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia. Drawing heavily on interviews, Dwyer presents these countries mired in a pervasive crisis brought on by modernization under which, while there may be broad agreement among elites as to the value of human rights, there is no consensus as to what those rights should be or how individual rights should be balanced against societal interests. Yet ultimately the author fails in his aim of understanding ``Middle Eastern notions of human rights.'' As Dwyer himself admits, the three nations examined, each with strong ties to the West, are not representative of Islam as a whole. More serious is his decision to limit his contacts to intellectuals. Educated, and to varying degrees Westernized, these individuals present a skewed perspective on societies where, as one Moroccan sociology student said,p. 123 among the common people, ``you don't even hear the word `freedom' expressed.'' (July)
Library Journal
This is not the typical human rights report, listing physical and mental abuses in particular countries. Written by an anthopologist and former director of Amnesty International's Middle East department, it is instead an examination of where human rights in the broadest sense fit into the cultures of Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia and whether there can be a universally applicable notion of human rights. Through a series of interviews with leading intellectuals in these three countries, Dwyer presents information on history, politics, and religion in an attempt to define human rights in the three societies and, by extension, to illustrate the differences between Middle Eastern/Arab/Islamic and Western concepts of human rights. The rambling interview style can be confusing, making generalizations and conclusions difficult. Nevertheless, this is an informative, thought-provoking study and is recommended for academic libraries and others with specialized Middle East collections.-- Ruth K. Baacke, Bellingham P.L., Wash.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780520074910
Publisher:
University of California Press
Publication date:
10/02/1991
Series:
Comparative Studies on Muslim Societies Series
Pages:
350
Product dimensions:
5.42(w) x 8.45(h) x 0.77(d)

Meet the Author

Kevin Dwyer directed Amnesty
International's Middle East department for six years. He is a research anthropologist and author of the book Moroccan Dialogues. Since 1985 he has been researching human rights and economic and social development.

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