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Religion and Human Rights in the Draft Palestinian Constitution

January 21, 2013
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On 18 September 2012, the Institute of Law (IoL) at BZU organized a brainstorming session on “Religion and Human Rights in the Draft Palestinian Constitution.” In addition to a number of IoL legal researchers, the session brought together former Minister of Justice, Dr. Ali Khashan, and Dr. William Nassar.



In his opening remarks, Mr. Jamil Salem, IoL Director, addressed the relationship between human rights and religious themes, which have drawn the attention of many legal scholars. The debate over this issue has given rise to theoretical and practical issues that need further consideration and understanding. Whereas the post-modern world is adopting a variety of opinions and perspectives on human rights and Islam, the IoL will seek to identify various dimensions and viewpoints on this issue, as well as search for a “common ground in the midst of such diversity and plurality.”

Dr. Mustafa Mar’i, Manager of the IoL-based Religion and Human Rights in the Draft Palestinian Constitution project, explained that the brainstorming session “is designed to identify major themes of thorny issues in the relationship between religion and state.”

Advocate Narmin Siyam, legal researcher at the IoL, presented a preliminary study on the historical development of the relationship between religion and the state, including an overview of the historical context of the evolution of secularism and impact of Arab revolutions and political transformations on human rights.

Khashan highlighted that the relationship between religion and the state is critical, controversial and requires an in-depth examination.

Nassar explained that the concept of the state is secular. The state per se cannot have a religion; it is the people and political system that have one. In regards to public rights and freedoms, Nassar emphasised that Arab states have reservations about provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which violate Islamic Law. Referring to a major problem of Arab constitutions, Dr. Nassar stated that Arab legislators associate rights with obligations, thereby infringing on human rights.

At the end of the session, Salem and Mar’i concluded that this brainstorming session will serve as the background, on the basis of which IoL legal researchers will identify and explore major themes in the relationship between religion and the state. Relevant conclusions and recommendations will be presented in a conference the IoL plans to organize in early December 2012.


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