Islam and Human Rights

Islam and Human Rights

Tradition and Politics
5th Edition
July 2012
Trade Paperback · 320 Pages
$38.00 U.S. · $44.00 CAN · £25.99 U.K. · €26.99 E.U.
ISBN 9780813344676
Westview Press

Praise for Prior Editions:

“Highly recommended to all scholars and students of human rights in the Muslim world…Particularly useful for its incisive deconstructions of government-sponsored ‘alternative’ human rights frameworks, and the political calculations at their heart.” –Anthony Chase, Occidental College

“Essential reading for anyone seeking to understand and assess tensions between Islamic political thinking and the modern idea of human rights. For readers new to the question, a cogent new chapter o the politics of cultural relativism provides essential context and will quickly introduce them to surrounding controversy. Mayer doesn’t hesitate to explore the diversity of thinking within the Islamic tradition or flinch from questioning the motivations of governments that appeal to Islam to legitimate political repression…A brilliant work by a seasoned scholar.” –Susan Waltz, University of Michigan

“A ‘must read’ for anyone interested in the interplay between religion, politics, and individual rights in our turbulent times…Articulate and well reasoned work…A unique contribution to the field of women’s human rights and especially valuable for students and activists working toward improving the status of women in Muslim majority societies.” –Mahnaz Afkhami, President, Women's Learning Partnership

“There are many treatments of human rights and Islam, most of them marked by wishful thinking, but only Ann Mayer’s Islam and Human Rights carefully examines the actual guarantees given in Islamic human rights documents. She allows Islamic sources to speak for themselves and reveals the differences between the English and Arabic versions. She shows how the ringing guarantees of human rights given in these documents are always subordinated to a, usually undefined, Islamic law.”

—Claremont Review of Books

“An excellent overview.”

— Religious Studies Review

“Mayer shows that even the strident Islamization process could not remain immune from the influence of the contemporary human rights culture that has permeated the world’s porous cultural boundaries. Mayer’s book, now in its third, revised edition, highlights this influence better than any other study of which I am aware.”

—Human Rights Quarterly

“Very important, especially for people with an interest in and knowledge of Islamic politics, jurisprudence, and history.… Brings together a vast knowledge of medieval Islamic jurisprudence with modern Western traditions of human rights to deal with very sensitive religious, political, and cultural concerns.”

—American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences

“A solid contribution.”

—Religious Studies Review

“Mayer’s accomplishment is to seek to present her legal critique within the context of an orthodox-modernist dialectic, one that has always pervaded Muslim experience in its rich diversity.… One hopes that it will set a superior standard of scholarship.… A fine contribution to a vast and recondite subject. Beyond surveying orthodox agendas in word and deed, she calls attention to emerging horizons for societies grappling with sometimes conflicting facets of their Muslim heritages, amid radical socioeconomic change.”

—Canadian Journal of Law and Society

“A brave and intelligent book which certainly deserves an audience in the Muslim world.… It demonstrates the intellectual difficulties that face Islamist theorists, arising from the tension between their need for authoritative answers to the questions of human political existence on the one hand, and Islam’s scriptural ambiguity, historical and geographical diversity, and multiplicity of spokesmen on the other.”

—Middle Eastern Studies

“Islam and Human Rights ranks as a premiere comprehensive study. The book carefully examines Islam’s intellectual and practical relationship with universal human rights standards. The author surveys the literature of leading Islamic scholars and organizations and provides a searching inquiry into Islam’s interpretation of international human rights laws. She cogently argues that Islam is not incompatible with international human rights paradigms.”

—Harvard Human Rights Journal

“In this well-researched and well-argued book, Professor Ann Elizabeth Mayer has challenged [the] ’cultural relativist’ stance adopted by Muslim governments.… Brilliant and stimulating.”

—Journal of Church and State

“This excellent work appears when many eyes are turned to Islamic societies undergoing resurgent commitment to the faith.… Rich in analysis and documentation …[it] is essential for all those interested in current Islamic revivalist movements, as well as for comparativists.”


“Mayer…draws on her broad knowledge of Islamic law and international human rights to evaluate the political significance of Islamic rights schemes.… Must reading for anyone interested in the changing order in the Middle East and Islamic societies in general, and certainly for human rights activists with interest in the Muslim world.”

—Middle East Report

“A serious, scholarly book with a strongly developed point of view.”

— Foreign Affairs

“This is a brave book.… Mayer’s contribution lies in bringing the central issues of a debate about rights important in the region but little known outside it to a larger readership and in criticizing the one side of the debate that we normally hear. In doing this, she makes an important contribution to issues of rights and cultural relativism relevant to discussions well beyond the region.”

—American Political Science Review

“Mayer masterfully examines how Muslims encounter the European tradition of human rights, showing how some have accommodated it while others have rejected it as a Western notion, alien to Islam. Mayer’s important contribution places the issue in the context of Islam’s confrontation with cultural modernity. It is a must for every student of the Middle East.”

—Bassam Tibi, Georg-August-Universität, Göttingen