October 26, 2011

Universal Rights Come First

On another blog I read I made a comment today concerning universal versus relative human rights.  I am strongly in favor of the former, especially when relative rights seek to usurp the universal.

Human rights treaties generally provide for the  inability of individual states to comply with universal norms.  For example, Article 2 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights says that each party must act:
"to the maximum of its available resources, with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of the rights ... by all appropriate means, including particularly the adoption of legislative measures."
This policy of flexibility with respect to the individual obligation of states to respect, protect and fulfill universal rights does not mean, however, that states must adopt an policy of strict multiculturalism.  Multiculturalism is just a tool to get to the objective, universal human rights, as agreed to in both international and regional human rights treaties.

In important regards, multiculturalism actually seems to have made matters worse.  For example, Europe is segregated.  Some cities have "no-go" zones where different laws than national statutes are enforced on the streets.  My guess is that only a minority of states parties actually practice multiculturalism.  The OIC, over 50 states, have now made the Universal Declaration subject to Islamic principles and interpretations set forth in the Cairo Declaration, which does not further a multicultural approach to law. 

One abuse concerns the present attempt to make blasphemy, which we do not recognize, into defamation of religion, which we will recognize.  The latter is simply a Westernized label for what is blasphemy, under the guise of universal human rights, used to install a cultural and religious norm that does not protect free exercise of religion, but violates the linchpin of Western values, free expression, upon which our post-WWII international community is arguably based.

I therefore stand as a liberal in favor of universal rights, not afraid to say that relative rights are subsidiary.  Universal rights are not absolute, but when in conflict with cultural rights, should be given the strong presumption in matters of state conduct.

This does not mean that discrimination by the state should not be tolerated, but there is no way possible to make a society free from discrimination either.

All this does not even consider the aspect of intentional action not to assimilate, llustrated by an Erdogan's message to German Turks.  This helps show that it is not only one side that is responsible to make multiculturalism work within the confines of universality.

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