Book Review of: Claiming Our Rights: A Manual for Women's Human Rights Education in Muslim Societies by Mahnaz Afkhami and Haleh Vaziri
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The purpose of Claiming Our Rights: A Manual for Women's Human Rights Education in Muslim Societies by Mahnaz Afkhami and Haleh Vaziri (Bethesda, MD: Sisterhood Is Global Institute, 154 pp., 1996) is "to facilitate transmission of the universal human rights concepts inscribed in the major international human rights documents to grassroots populations in Muslim societies." It is an invaluable contribution of the Sisterhood Is Global Institute (SIGI) and a much needed beginning to educate Muslim women's of their rights in Islam. Its themes, derived from the mission statement of Platform for Action of the Beijing Conference (iv), are necessary for individuals who are already aware and started to question the discrepancy in the practice concerning their human rights. What is needed in the methodology, therefore, is a section that will facilitate awareness-raising as the initial step that will instigate women to start questioning and dialoguing about the different themes. This methodological adjustment would have been addressed intuitively had the authors, as well as the scholars and practitioners who were consulted, considered an important element in their explanation of the meaning of "Shari`ah" under the section "Major Premise."
The authors, despite their utmost care not to "impart the truth" but to "facilitate dialogue" (Mahnaz Afkhami's letter of introduction) have over-looked the fact that human knowledge and action are affected by the human belief system. Whether we call it "religion," "faith," or "worldview", such a belief system composes an important component of one's prior knowledge. This prior knowledge either makes an individual aware or dormant concerning abuses of her human rights. It also makes an individual either accept or reject the "central premise of this human rights educational model that there is no contradictions between human rights and Islam." (v)