SecState Hillary Clinton made some remarks on human rights yesterday in Vilnius, including this one that was directed at the winning Islamist parties in Egypt:
Now, in Egypt, new actors will be seated in the parliament, including representatives of Islamist parties. Transitions require fair and inclusive elections, but they also demand that those who are elected embrace democratic norms and rules. We therefore expect all democratic actors and elected officials to uphold universal human rights, including women’s rights, to allow free religious practice, to promote tolerance and good relations among communities of different faiths, and to support peaceful relations with their neighbors. Democracies are guided by the rules of the game, including the inevitable transfers of power from one party to another. And the Egyptian people deserve a democracy that is enduring.
I don't understand why people refer to "universal human rights" in the first place, since there is obviously no such thing. Can anybody name a human right that is not culturally relative but actually exists universally? But put that aside.
Don't Islamic political "actors" such as those in Egypt have their own very specific concept of human rights? I think they do. The member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation long ago adopted the Cairo Declaration of human rights, which appears to constitute the democratic “rules of the game” for Islamic states.
The preamble of the Declaration is quite clear that human rights are not universal, but are conditional on Islamic law:
Reaffirming the civilizing and historical role of the Islamic Ummah which God made the best nation [TSB note: see Koran 3:110 for the "best nation" citation] that has given mankind a universal and well-balanced civilization in which harmony is established between this life and the hereafter and knowledge is combined with faith; and the role that this Ummah should play to guide a humanity confused by competing trends and ideologies and to provide solutions to the chronic problems of this materialistic civilization.
Wishing to contribute to the efforts of mankind to assert human rights, to protect man from exploitation and persecution, and to affirm his freedom and right to a dignified life in accordance with the Islamic Shari'ah.
The Declaration goes on at length about fundamental rights, universal freedoms in Islam, and revealed divine will. The most troublesome part of it in regard to political freedoms is Article 22:
(a) Everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Shari'ah.
(b) Everyone shall have the right to advocate what is right, and propagate what is good, and warn against what is wrong and evil according to the norms of Islamic Shari'ah
(c) Information is a vital necessity to society. It may not be exploited or misused in such a way as may violate sanctities and the dignity of Prophets, undermine moral and ethical values or disintegrate, corrupt or harm society or weaken its faith.
(d) It is not permitted to arouse nationalistic or doctrinal hatred or to do anything that may be an incitement to any form or racial discrimination.
So according to the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights, you are only free to advocate what is right and good, and are forbidden to misuse information or to express an opinion contrary to the principles of Islamic law. Well, the devil - pardon the expression - is really in the details of that declaration of human rights.
We don't need to lecture the Islamist parties that will come to power in Egypt. They already have a lock on this human rights and freedoms stuff.