Two lectures by
(Director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought, U.K.)
Report by Kota SUECHIKA
1. Human Rights in Islam (July 14, 1999)
2. Islam and Democracy: Jordan and the Muslim Brotherhood (July 17, 1999)
Dr. Tamimi is a Jordanian of Palestinian descent who has extensive knowledge on the trends and activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan. He has been concerned with issues of human rights, liberty, and democratization in the Islamic world. In 1992, he helped to found the London-based organization Liberty for the Muslim World, and in the 1998 Parliamentary Elections in Jordan, he served as Chairman of the Islamic Movement's Parliamentary Office.
1. Human Rights in Islam (July 14)
The issue of human rights was not taken up in the Islamic world until after the Six-Day War in 1967. Because the Arabs were defeated by Israel in this war, Ali Abdullah Wafi and other Muslim thinkers began to discuss the issue of human rights in order to "protect their people". In the early 1980s, these discourses developed further with the symposium at Kuwait University and the International Declaration of Islamic Human Rights.
The debate surrounding human rights in Islam can be examined in the context of Islamic revivalism which has gained strength since the 1970s. The debate has been colored by the opening-up of society to Western modernization and at the same time, by the reaction to the Western concept of human rights being applied to the Islamic world. Although there are many opinions on the matter, the concept of human rights in Islam is generally different from the Western concept, and is based on the historical experience of early Islam (salaf).
Human rights in Islam is characterized by the emphasis on the relationship between humans and God. Dr. Tamimi argued that the three Muslim concepts of duty, justice, and morality, which are based on taqwa (fear of God, awareness of the existence of God), correspond to the Western concepts of rights, equality, and individualism, and form the elements of human rights in the Islamic world.
2. Islam and Democracy: Jordan and the Muslim Brotherhood (July 17)
The Muslim Brotherhood of Jordan was established in 1945. Although radicals supporting Sayyid Qutb have gained power in the movement since 1967, on the whole, the Brotherhood has built what can be described as a friendly, complementary relationship with the government in contrast to the situations in Egypt and Syria. Having gained both popular support and knowledge of the electoral process in the 1984 local elections, the Brotherhood, in spite of internal resistance by radicals, participated in the 1989 Lower House Elections which were held for the first time in 22 years. In this way, the Brotherhood demonstrated its primarily moderate character, and out of the eighty seats, it won twenty-two.
The radicals in the Brotherhood opposed participation in the elections not because the government was non-Islamic, but because they took issue with the "modernization" of the government. However, the fact that the Brotherhood participated in the elections showed that the majority of the members felt that "democracy" was no longer an ideology, but mere methodology, and that the elections were in alignment with the democracy that the Brotherhood as a social movement has advocated since its establishment. The assertion that "Islam and democracy cannot coexist" (popular among radicals in the 1970s) had lost much of its force.
Dr. Tamimi concluded his lecture with the comment that there are still issues of democracy that Islamic movements in Jordan (and other Arab areas) must face, such as tolerance, freedom of choice, and transparency.
After both lectures, there were active question-and-answer sessions. There were many questions about the validity of arguments based on the Western concepts of "human rights" and "democracy." Throughout the sessions, Dr. Tamimi maintained that he advocated the complementary coexistence of Islam and the West.