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Islamism, Statehood and Human Rights

A World of Difference

Book | 1st edition 2015 | United Kingdom | Olufemi Ojo Ilesanmi

Attesting to the ever-increasing presence and influence of Islamism is the emergence of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. This newfangled theocracy is a constant source of inversions and shockwaves. But, while Islamism, Statehood and Human Rights does not give a day-to-day account of events in the newly created state, it does look in depth at the worldviews that shape public policies and law in the 21st century world of Islam. At the heart of this book is the question of whether religious and political philosophies of contemporary Islamic regimes are compatible with human rights originating from the secular tradition of the West.

Islamism, Statehood and Human Rights contributes to the ongoing universalist-relativist debate in international relations and law. It examines two different worlds with competing perspectives on international human rights: firstly, a world where all humans are, by nature, entitled to human rights, and secondly a world where religious identity is a requirement for human rights. The former world of entitlement usually consists of secular societies where efforts are consistently made to ensure the separation of Church and State. In the latter world however, there is a hypostatic union between Church and State. Political and legal authority is stamped on the minds of citizens or subjects through religion. Rights, some theocrats believe, are divinely ordained and ascribed to members of a given community of faith.

Informing the interdisciplinary research is a spirited desire for ethnographic understanding in multicultural societies and for peaceful co-existence within modern multi-religious states, which are often divided and threatened not only by religion but also by the manipulation of laws derived from religiously based traditions. Islamism, Statehood and Human Rights accordingly investigates and analyses how law, politics and religion interact in such local and international public arenas.

‘This seems to me to be a ground breaking work because it seeks to synthesise historical and theological concerns with human rights discourse. The author raises the question as to whether Islamic theocracy can be compatible with fundamental freedoms and also whether it is in fact, so His case studies of Turkey, Sudan and, above all, Nigeria illuminate very well the gap between constitutional protections and inroads into them by partial or wholesale provisions for the enforcement of Shari'a.
The book has a very good section on the Hudud punishments in Shari'a and the traditional reluctance to enforce them. A reluctance decisively overturned by Islamism. There is also an interesting discussion of what makes a nation Dar ul Islam which contradicts much of the understanding of Islamists and, indeed, of their secular critics. It seems all that is required is for Muslims to be able freely to practice their faith!
Is the choice only between theocracy and secularism? Can we not have a third way where religion influences and persuades, it has a recognised role in public affairs but it does not coerce compliance?
One of the questions raised by the book is why radical Islamist agendas find a resonance among the masses which other systems cannot evoke. Another has to do with the nature of Islam itself and Islamist programmes restricting the freedoms of women, cruel and inhuman punishment and the treatment of minorities. One of the dangers in Islamic penology is over emphasis on deterrence at the cost of balance,proportionality,rehabilitation etc.
In the Judaeo-Christian tradition laws are just because God wills them and he wills them because they have to do with the nature of the Universe and of ourselves. In other words, they are grounded in reality and are rational. Can this be said about Islam, with its emphasis on the arbitrary and occasionalist nature of the divine will-believers have to believe 'bila kaif',without asking how?
Dr Ilesanmi refers to a number of Modernist writers who seek to reinterpret the tradition and, specifically, Shari'a. This can be extended to account for movements and figures in the past who attempted this but also of counter- cultural movements like Sufism.
However it is done, any reassessment of Islamic tradition must take into account a fundamental difference between Islam and Christianity, namely, that in Islam Law takes the place of Theology.
I am indebted to the author for his in depth discussion of the situation in Northern Nigeria-a situation which has parallels with Islamic polities throughout the world.’
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, OXTRAD Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy & Dialogue

‘Dr Ilesanmi draws on his interdisciplinary experience in law, ethics and public theology to create an interesting and informative discussion of the tension between theocratic legal regimes in which rights and duties are prescribed in the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed and the international human rights standards that have developed since the middle of the 20th century.’
Lord Hodge, Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom

Technical info
More Information
Type of product Book
Format Paperback
EAN / ISSN 9781780683317
Weight 485 g
Status Available
Number of pages xvi + 276 p.
Access to exercice No
Publisher Intersentia
Language English
Publication Date Oct 16, 2015
Available on Jurisquare No
Available on Strada Belgique No
Available on Strada Europe No
Available on Strada Luxembourg No


  • Table of Contents
  • Chapter 1. Introduction
  • Chapter 2. Theocracies: Towards a Working Definition
  • Chapter 3. Contemporary Theocracies in Context
  • Chapter 4. Contemporary Islamic Regimes and Human Rights: A Review
  • Chapter 5. A Jurisprudential Analysis of the Human Rights Environments
  • Chapter 6. Shari’ah in Contemporary Theocracies: The Nigerian Example
  • Chapter 7. National Constitution and the Shari’ah in Nigeria: A Contextual Analysis
  • Chapter 8. Conclusion