This book addresses the relationship between human rights and religion. The original blurb for the Oxford Amnesty Lectures of 2008 invited speakers and audiences to ponder arguments for the God-given source of human rights. The book explains how biblical inspiration (both Old and New Testament) fuelled the anti-slavery protests and later the civil rights movement in the United States. It develops the particular relevance, for arguments over human rights within Islam, of the writings of the medieval philosopher Muhammad al-Ghazali who justified an openness towards constructive engagement with other traditions. The book shows where the philosophical worldviews that inform the religion of Islam and the rights discourse may be distant from each other. It illustrates the challenge of taking the real world of human practice seriously while avoiding simplistic arguments for pluralism or relativism. The book focuses on Simon Schama's evocation of the religious fervour which helped feed the long struggles for liberation among American slave communities. It discusses the understanding of human rights in the Roman Catholic tradition. The book also shows that the Christian experience of Pentecost and what it means to learn to speak as well as understand another's language, is a continuing resource God has given the church to sustain the ability to suffer as well as respond to those who suffer for the long haul. The book argues that moral progress consists in the universalisation of Western liberal democracy with its specific understanding of human rights.
OxfordAmnestyLectures (OAL) has as its ﬁrst raison d’etre the raising of funds
for Amnesty International. It does so through an annual series of lectures which
consider human rights in light of a particular theme. In 2007 the theme was
incarceration, an apposite topic when one remembers Amnesty International’s
founding narrative, that of Peter Benenson reading about two Portuguese students
being imprisoned. The result was international mobilisation, political pressure,
and the talking out loud about
Can human rights accommodate pluralism?
There are many ways to approach the topic selected for this year’s OxfordAmnestyLectures. I have chosen to examine it from the following angle: Can human
rights accommodate pluralism? I am especially interested in two questions: (1) Do
human rights transcend cultural and religious differences? (2) What does the
answer to this question imply for our understanding of democracy in a global context? I will begin by examining the supposedly universal relevance
This book examines the intersection between incarceration and human rights. It is about why independent inspection of places of custody is a necessary part of human rights protection, and how that independence is manifested and preserved in practice. Immigration and asylum policies ask crucial questions about national identity, about human rights, and about our values as compassionate citizens in an era of increasingly complex international challenges. The book deals with the future of prisons and shows how the vulnerable population has been unconscionably treated. To arrive at a proper diagnosis of the expansive use and abuse of the prison in the age of economic deregulation and social insecurity, it is imperative that we effect some analytic breaks with the gamut of established approaches to incarceration. The book explores the new realities of criminal confinement of persons with mental illness. It traces the efforts of New Right think-tanks, police chiefs and other policy entrepreneurs to export neoliberal penality to Europe, with England and Wales acting as an 'acclimatization chamber'. In a series of interventions, of which his Oxford Amnesty Lecture is but one, Loic Wacquant has in recent years developed an incisive and invaluable analysis of the rise and effects of what he calls the penal state.
Religious Discourse (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1998), pp. 85–100.
Charles E. Curran, Loyal Dissent: Memoir of a Catholic Theologian (Washington, DC:
Georgetown University Press, 2006), p. 73.
Ibid., p. 239.
Ibid., p. 73.
For discussion, see Nicholas C. Bamforth and David A. J. Richards, Patriarchal Religion,
Sexuality and Gender: A Critique of New Natural Law (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2008), ch. 6. [See also N. Bamforth (ed.), Sex Rights: The OxfordAmnestyLectures 2002 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005) – ed.]
moral considerations are alien transplants will be less urgent. At least to the extent that this is true
in the West, Iranians may come to ﬁnd it wrong that the state should torture or
detain arbitrarily. They have found out that when a regime customarily engages
in these activities, anyone may become its victim; this makes for unsatisfactory
government, whether religious or secular.
1 See Shayk Muhammad Aﬁﬁ-al-Akiti and Dr H. A. Hellyer, ‘Response to Khaled
Abou El Fadl’, in Chris Miller (ed.), ‘War on Terror’: OxfordAmnestyLectures 2006
not to say that every Egyptian from then on behaved impeccably. It is not even to say that Egyptian society of the time offers a model for today. But it is a noteworthy example of a people appealing at a time of crisis to the highest ideals of their narrative – ideals still worthy of our attention today.
In an OxfordAmnestyLecture in 1993, the philosopher Richard Rorty, discussing the old problematic of the ‘nature’ of man, suggested that man is a ‘flexible, protean, self-shaping animal’ and that the most useful aspect of human nature to focus on is ‘our
Response to Stanley Hauerwas
Pamela Sue Anderson
Stanley Hauerwas focuses explicitly on the remit for the 2008 OxfordAmnestyLectures (OAL): ‘Rights are sometimes thought to derive from the God-given
nature of man. Yet today human rights and religion may ﬁnd themselves at odds.’
Hauerwas ﬁnds rights and religions at odds, opting for the Christian religion over
rights and any other religions. The OAL remit acknowledges that ‘the universal claims
made for rights can run counter to the revealed truths from which
returns he reaped were indeed
for a long time very meagre. But with his persistence, and with the gathering
appreciation for the obvious value of what he was providing, came success. Hence
the OxfordAmnestyLecture to which this is a response: an essay by a man who,
after a long and uncertain battle, has made of a potentially ruinous experience a
vocation and a career.
A South African response to Jack Mapanje
As stories of incarceration and its aftermath go, this is a very warming one. To
pluck from so grim and
, not in all of them – the turn towards
penal conﬁnement is also apparent and inmate numbers swell. The prison today
looms large in the political and social imagination.
In a series of interventions, of which his OxfordAmnestyLecture is but one,
Loïc Wacquant has in recent years developed an incisive and invaluable analysis of
the rise and effects of what he calls the penal state.2 If he and it did not exist, it
would be necessary to invent them. There is much in the contemporary economic,
social and penal condition that properly calls for the kind of analysis he