On September 25, in an event held at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies launched a new three-year academic research project on political Islam and human rights. The project aims to document and analyze the thought and practices of Islamist political parties and track the interplay between Islamic law and constitutional and legal systems in Arab countries. It further seeks to engage critically with issues of Islam, democracy, and human rights (and the universality of human rights) through an assessment of political Islam’s rise to power in the Arab region following the Arab Spring, as well as understand and evaluate the platforms and practices of these parties in light of universal human rights standards.
The project will focus on Arab countries that have seen radical political transformations—namely, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Yemen—as well as other states where political Islamist groups play a prominent political role, such as Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, and Algeria, and states where Islamist movements attained power prior to the Arab uprisings, such as Sudan. The project will promote comparative studies with non-Arab Islamic countries, such as Iran, Turkey, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Nigeria. In this context, the project seeks to foster international and regional networking between those interested in issues of religious reform in these countries. In the framework of the research program, the CIHRS is cooperating with several researchers and academics at major Arab and international universities, as well as numerous international and regional rights centers and organizations.
The project will sponsor several panel and discussion seminars, academic papers, and reports, as well as numerous academic and juridical studies, translations, and reviews of the foreign literature on the topics of human rights culture. It will also examine the relationship between human rights culture and Islamic law and the practices of political Islamist movements.
To mark the launch of the project, the CIHRS is organizing a roundtable on Thursday morning, in conjunction with the Center of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law at SOAS, titled “The Evolution of the Thought and Practice of Political Islamist Parties After the Arab Spring and their Relationship to International Human Rights Law.” The inaugural activity of the new research project, the roundtable seeks to offer a preliminary reading of the practices and policies of Islamist political parties in several countries that saw the rise of these parties after the Arab uprisings, such as Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya.
The roundtable, to be held at the University of London, includes three panel discussions. The first focuses on political transformations and the development of human rights rhetoric in Arab societies, while the second and third panels concentrate on the relationship between Islamic law, civil law, and human rights, with a focus on lessons learned from Iran and Pakistan. The panels will also look at the future of this relationship and its repercussions for the reality on the ground after the Arab Spring.
The roundtable is hosting several researchers and academics from the University of Pennsylvania, San Francisco State University, Occidental College in Los Angeles, and the University of London, as well as the International Islamic University in Pakistan and the Danish Institute for Human Rights. Several human rights defenders in Egypt, Syria, and Libya will be taking part in the roundtable. The three discussion panels will be introduced and moderated by Bahey eldin Hassan, the director of the CIHRS; Lynn Welchman, a professor at SOAS; and Moataz El Fegiery, a member of the CIHRS board of directors and the general supervisor of its research program on political Islam and human rights.
The research project’s consultative council is scheduled to meet on September 26 to discuss a work plan for the project and coming events; the meeting will be attended by various academic, researchers, and rights advocates.
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