By Christopher Buck
In an increasingly globalized world, Islamic identity is ultimately a legal as well as a religious issue. This is especially true where the identities of religious minorities stand in tension with Islamic orthodoxies within Islamic states.
“Religious Minority Rights” is the capstone chapter in a prestigious reference work, The Islamic World (London & New York: Routledge, 2008), edited by one of the world’s leading Islamicists, Andrew Rippin. In “Religious Minority Rights,” three of the most controversial religious minorities within the contemporary Islamic world are examined in their respective socio-historical contexts: (1) the Alevis in Turkey, (2) the Ahmadiyya in Pakistan, and (3) the Baha’is of Iran. These three faith-communities provide ideal subjects for a comparative study of the rights of religious minorities within the present-day Muslim world. In this chapter, it is argued that, in the twenty-first century, the legal “right” of each minority to its own religious identity may be as important as the “truth” it identity.
It is further argued that Islamic identity and praxis must now withstand the scrutiny of the international community – a relatively new situation that certainly did not exist when Islam was the world’s superpower during the so-called Dark Ages of Europe. International canons of religious human rights, in theory, protect the right of each minority to its own religious identity – event when that identity stands in tension with the majoritarian Islamic identity of a given Islamic state. By international standards, it is now wrong to be “right” – if the rights of others are wronged. Inevitably, it is predicted, Islamic law will be measured against international law, and will increasingly be constrained by it.