'Muslim Fundamentalism' and Human Rights in the Age of Terror
Amna Akbar & Rupal Oza, "Muslim Fundamentalism" and Human Rights in the Age of Terror, in Gender, National Security and Counter-Terrorism: Human Rights Perspectives (Margaret Satterthwaite & Jayne Huckerby eds.) (Routledge 2012).
36 Pages Posted: 30 Jul 2013
Date Written: July 29, 2013
This book chapter examines secular feminist human rights activists’ interventions against U.S. and U.K.-based human rights advocacy on behalf of male targets of counterterrorism policies. Specifically, the intervenors publicly contested decisions by Amnesty International to partner with Moazzam Begg — a British citizen held at Guantánamo Bay for nearly three years before being released, never having been charged with a crime — in its campaign to close the U.S. naval base; and by the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Center for Constitutional Rights to represent the father of Anwar Al-Aulaqi — a U.S. citizen and Muslim cleric — in contesting the U.S. Government’s decision to place him on a CIA kill list. (Al-Aulaqi has since been killed by U.S. drone strike.)
By defending the rights of men held at Guantánamo, and challenging Anwar Al-Aulaqi’s placement on a CIA kill list, the interveners worried the human rights groups were allying themselves with forces against women’s human rights, and thereby undermining those rights. The interveners’ concerns reflect a dangerous convergence of the “war on terror” discourse on “good” and “bad” Muslims, and the savages-victims-saviors metaphor in human rights discourses. The chapter critiques the interveners’ construction of a black-and-white world where there are good human rights subjects and then enemies of human rights, where "Muslim fundamentalism" is an uncontested ill. The chapter also unpacks the assertion of secularism as the bulwark against a dangerous “Muslim fundamentalism” and the guarantor of human rights. Human rights abuses usually occur in complex transnational landscapes of violence, morality, and responsibility — messy realities with which human rights advocates must grapple in order for human rights advocacy to make meaningful headway in our increasingly connected world.
Keywords: human rights, feminism, war on terror, TWAIL, law and geography, ethics of advocacy
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