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The Globalization Reader, 5th Edition by John Boli, Frank J. Lechner

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41 Women's Human Rights and the Muslim QuestionIran's One Million Signatures Campaign

Rebecca L. Barlow

At the root of many investigations into Islam's relationship with modernity is a commonly held view that human rights are the legacy of Western culture. This logic is often stretched to suggest that whereas Western societies embody a cultural predisposition towards the international human rights framework, it is considered foreign, unfamiliar, and extraneous in other cultural settings. For relativists, human rights represent a culturally constrained project: a product of enlightenment theory and European individualism with little applicability in non-Western contexts. In a world that took a paradigmatic turn on 11 September 2001, the non-Western ‘other' in this political master narrative has increasingly come to imply ‘Muslim'. Now we are faced with a philosophical, and sometimes theological, debate surrounding the universality of human rights norms on the one hand, and Islam as a ‘complete way of life' on the other.

Nowhere is this debate more entrenched than in terms of gender relations and women's status. According to the modern principle of gender equality, any distinction made on the basis of sex that has the intention or outcome of according women unequal rights to men is ipso facto discriminatory and unjust. But from the relativist viewpoint, gender equality is considered context dependent, or worse, a lofty ideal of women who are white, Western, and privileged. ...

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