I mentioned earlier that I did not think that freedom from racism, for example, was a human right.
By this, I meant that I did not believe it to be anyone’s guaranteed right, that is by mere dint of being human, that they not be looked upon with contempt, or not be looked down upon based on the color of their skin or the ethnic genealogy.
What I did not mean, however, was that racism or predatorists’ ethnocentrism were good or morally defensible. In fact, my beliefs are quite the opposite.
But the way to deal with these diseases is not simply through legal prescriptions and sanctions. And we might remind ourselves that law is the primary and premier most favorite mechanism through which human rights advocates routinely operate.
It is ultimately, in other words, our hidden pre-rational even pre-conscious selves that must be addressed and properly animated, if these defects are to be effectively addressed.
And this, I am afraid, is something the non reflexive rationalism of the human rights discourses simply cannot do, which brings me back oddly to Quran 2: 275.
The virtues (akhlaq) are not simply important as a theoretical alternative to human rights. Their absence is actually the reason that we get so many human rights violations in the first place, while all the lofty declarations, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, remain in all too many instances are like ink on paper.
In his book: “Saviors and Survivors: Darfur Politics and the War on Terror”, Mahmoud Mamdani points to the often feigned or contrived ambiguity between such constructs as official census categories and racism; intervention and invasion; the tragedies in Iraq and Afghanistan on the one hand, and what is going on in Darfur on the other. The latter being commonly accepted as a human rights concern, the former commonly not.
In the end, no amount of the kind of rationalistic jousting promoted by human rights discourses, Western or Islamic, will resolve these ambiguities, rather like the pre-islamic Arabians, each side will continue to point to ontological differences that allegedly sustain its case.
This is to me the ultimate import of Quran 2: 275. For this verse makes it clear that in the end it may be only the virtues and the akhlaq of piety, and it had two enormous commitments to obedience to the commandments of God.
Not any anti logically obvious distinctions that will enable us to see, at least in many cases ,the difference between apparent and actual good and evil.