International Conference on
Human Rights & Dialogue among Civilizations
Tehran, May 5-6, 2001

Mufid University

International Centre for Dialogue among Civilizations
United Nations Branches in the Islamic Republic of Iran
Institute for Political and International Studies
Iranian National Commission for UNESCO
Islamic Human Rights Commission


Objectives and Programs :

In the last decade the issue of human rights and its related topics have been brought to the attention of international community.

As a focal point, the discourse of "Dialogue among Civilizations" in the new millennium was proposed by the erudite thinker His Excellency President Khatami on behalf of the enlightened people of I. R. of Iran. The approval and consensus of the representatives of different countries indicates the special importance that the international community attaches to peacemaking, friendship, peaceful coexistence, protection of human dignity, and equality in human rights.

On the other hand, there are the misconceptions ascribed to some of Islamic laws including the iniquities of some Islamic communities, that create political and social misunderstandings between Muslims and others, and thus result in grievous harm to the countries' security and peaceful coexistence.
As Mofid University has adopted as a principal stance the grave mission of clarifying the precise thoughts of Islam from its early days to present, it has strived to the extent of its capacity to study and research the theoretical and philosophical dimensions of human rights.

Among the activities of the university are arranging speeches, a panel sitting scholars and dignitaries of various sectors of the United Nations, and publication and distribution of several articles on issues related to human rights in the Quarterly Journal of Mofid University.

In the educational curriculum of Mofid University's Faculty of Law, the course of "Human Rights in Islam" has been upgraded to two credits (2 hours) since 1992, whereas in the official law graduate education it is an optional, single credit.

Efforts have been made to direct research and investigative works of graduate and postgraduate students towards human rights issues. Consequently, Mofid students of the Department of International Law are presently engaged in the preparation of five thesis in the field of human rights.

As another endeavor, the university has been for almost a year researching, planning and providing for the initial staging of a conference entitled  "The International Conference on Human Rights and Dialogue of Civilizations".

Dialogue for the purpose of identifying the integral components of human rights and the proximity of varying views in this regard is a prerequisite for the dialogue between religions and civilizations. Therefore, aiming for a real and purposeful dialogue will be impossible or futile before the resolution of conflicting thoughts in the area of human rights. The organizers of the conference hope that by staging this event they will be able to attract as much of the attention of Iranian thinkers as possible to the research projects on human rights issues.

The topics of the conference are:

1. Theoretical basis of human rights
2. Religions, civilizations, and freedom of belief and religion
3. Religions and religious minorities
4. Freedom of thought and speech from the viewpoint of religions and civilizations
5. Religions, civilizations, and rights of people (the so-called Third Generation of Human Rights)
6. Religions, civilizations, and gender issues
7. Practical aspects of human rights

Collection and publication of selected articles of the conference will be a step towards the formation of academic resources in this subject.

Different sections including a High Council, Secretariat, Scientific Committee, Program and Planning Committee, International Affairs Committee and an Administration Committee have been formed and are presently working on the procedures.

The conference will be held on May 5th - 6th, 2001. During the two-day event articles of outstanding excellence will be selected by the Scientific Committee to be presented in the conference by their authors. ln addition to the presented articles, a number of selected articles will be published by Mofid University. It is also expected that on the sidelines of the conference round tables of scientific discussions will be conducted with the presence of scholars and thinkers.

Many research projects related to the theme of the conference are presently being carried out by the Scientific Research Department of the University as well as the secretariat of the conference. Other activities of the conference include an exhibition of books, articles and documents on the subjects related to the human rights.



Civilization, Dialogue, Freedom:
President Mohammad Khatami's New Thinking

Dr. Daniel Brumberg
Department of Government, Georgetown University

Over the last few years, both Muslim and Western intellectuals have held a number of conferences - some of them quite successful - in which the "dialogue of civilizations" has been the primary topic of debate. However, while these thinkers have largely agreed as to what they mean by "dialogue", there is little consensus as to "civilizations".

This paper proposes to examine this debate over the meaning and significance of the notion of a "dialogue of civilizations" by analyzing the contribution that president Mohammad Khatami has made to this debate. President Khatami's ideas are important for several reasons. First, as president of a country that is striving to find common ground with Western nations after years of conflict and discord, Khatami offers an active and practical example of a "dialogue of civilizations."

Second, president Khatami himself has been a leading and influential proponent of this idea. Third, in his writings, interviews and press conference, president Khatami has proposed a series of intriguing ideas and concepts that push the notion of a "dialogue of civilizations" in new and interesting direction. This paper will focus on these ideas, and in so doing show how and why the notion of such a "dialogue" is itself an evolving and multi-faceted phenomenon.


Cross-Cultural Communication:
A Prolegomenon for Inter-civilizational Discourse

Hmoud Salem Olimat
Graduate Social Work Program, University of Jordan

This paper suggests a methodology for inter-civilizational communication between Arab Muslim culture and Western culture. The thesis of this paper stems from the belief that cross-cultural communication is a prerequisite for inter-civilizational dialogue and interaction. The proposed methodology is based on the clarification and understanding of the following dimensions: (1) the subjective dimension, which is concerned with factors, and characteristics relevant to (us) self-knowledge. This knowledge will include our frame of reference, ideological, moral values, our epistemology and world-view. The purpose of this knowledge is to build a sound understanding of our collective identity in its core, historic and contemporary manifestations; (2) the objective dimension aims at achieving a vital and authentic understanding of (them) the Western culture. This knowledge includes intellectual, ideological and epistemological bases of Western culture within its historic and contemporary developments; (3) the shared and common experience between the two cultures. The writer purports that a wide range of common and shared intellectual, ideological and religious points of convergence exist between the two cultures. This common experience serves as a building block for a sound dialogue and mutual agenda.

Finally the paper suggests ways and means to translate this theoretical thesis into individual and institutional interactions between intellectuals and scholars from the two great human cultures.


Freedom of Opinion and Expression
 in Religions and Civilizations

Dr. Wahba Al-Zuhili
Department of Islamic Jurisprudence, Damascus University

The term "freedom" is familiar to human nature, since it has been bestowed on man by his Creator. Freedom of opinion and expression is the most important and transparent among the whole set of freedoms.

Islam has recognized this freedom both in theory and practice and warned man against blind imitation; but, on the other hand has considered him responsible in exercising his freedom and laid down certain restrictions on this kind of freedom. Islam respects freedom of expression in establishing the truth and achieving the right opinion. This freedom manifests itself in three practical, political and religious aspects, surrounded by two conditions: one internal, which is the rule of reason and conscience and another external specified by the law. Believers in religions have recognized freedom of opinion in three ways: 1) Material only, like the Jews; 2) Spiritual alone, like Christians; and 3) Both material and spiritual, like Muslims.

Islam respects the free choice of belief for non-Muslims which has three characteristics: 1) Impossibility of controlling thought and opinion; 2) The individual's freedom in choosing a belief whatever; and 3) Freedom in exercising the chosen belief.


Human Rights and Dialogue of Civilizations

G. F. McLean
Professor of Philosophy,
Council for Research in values and philosophy, Washington, DC, USA

Much of the theory of human rights has been developed in the abstract and objective environment of Western rationalism. In order to have a true dialogue of civilizations it is necessary to open this horizon to integrate dimensions of human subjectivity. This should allow for a more interior reading of human freedom as it shapes patterns of values and virtues, which in turn coalesce into various cultures, and ultimately into multiple civilizations.

The challenge then is to see if human freedom in and as the human search of the, good can effectively legislate for itself a human rights agenda. That is, is it possible to see human rights not as an abstraction from life or an imposition upon a culture, but as an expression of that human freedom whereby a culture is formed? If so, human rights will be not imported from without, but supported from within by the inexorable force by which a people, and a civilization works out its destiny.

For this an application of hermeneutic tools is required in order to see how a civilization can acquire normative authority in the life of a people and how like a gyroscope it can adjust itself through time continually to promote the human good - and human rights - in the concrete and evolving circumstances.


Logical Foundations of
"Clash" or "Dialog" among Civilizations

Dr. Sayed Hossein Seifzadeh
Faculty of law and political science of Tehran University

Beyond the political-diplomatic aspects of the two theories of "clash" and "dialog" among civilizations that result in different doctrines of foreign policy, these theories originate in differing sociological, psychological, ontological, and epistemological foundations. As the reflections of varying individuals and social groups indicate, one can witness either an evident gap or a harmony between the stated and the actual policies of individuals as well as countries. Hermeneutic penetration into the depths of different mentalities would reveal that such gap or harmony is sometimes resulted from hidden layers of the -actor's mental tradition. It is most likely that the acting individual or group is even unaware of such hidden layers. While presenting a very general review of the existing differences between the two mentioned theories and the likely reflections of both "clash" and "dialog" actors, the article tries to disclose the sociological, psychological, ontological, and epistemological foundations of these two theories.

Based on these mental foundations, the main hypothesis of this article will be verified. The said hypothesis indicates that commitment to either of these two alternative policies is a function of parameters created by the structural foundations of the society or human psyche, or created by the actor's ontological or epistemological mentalities.


The Role of Tolerance and Right to Difference
 in Dialogue of Civilizations

Abderrazagh A. Douay
Dept. of Letters, Muhammad AI-Khames University, Morocco

1) The third millennium is the age of communication progress and revolution and 'man has opted for dialogue as a necessity. This progress is most likely to give birth to closeness and mutual understanding among civilizations or. conversely, to line them opposite each other, ready to engage in a conflict whose leadership is also the flag- bearer of universalizing one particular civilization.

2) Living in a world under justice and equity seems to be a dream out of reach.

3) The term "human rights" is now used as an instrument especially in economic field.

4) In the present day approach to human rights, cultures and religions are ignored and the theory of "clash of civilizations" has been put forth believing in the real clash taking lace between Western and Islamic or Chinese civilizations.

1)      The call by the UNESCO to a dialogue was a reaction to the above belief.

2)      Considering the interdependence in matters of communication and information exchanges, the idea of isolationism reflects a mere illusion, in today's world.

The realization of a favored dialogue of civilizations is dependent on toleration and recognition of all civilizations and non-pursuit of hegemony by a party to the dialogue and on the acceptance of truth.

Universal Human Rights and Cultural Integrity

William Sweet
Department of philosophy, St. Francis Xavier University, Canada

This paper touches on three questions: 1) Can there be a philosophic justification of a doctrine of human rights? 2) Is a discourse of human rights inherently accidental? 3) Could the promotion of a discourse of human rights violate the cultural integrity of non-European/non-American societies?

These questions, in turn, reflect various objections to human rights concept. The paper approaches the triple questions/objections by dwelling on cultural identity, which is conceived as the "unity" or "coherence" of ideas and beliefs present in institutions and practices, that reflects the "mind" of a group of parsons, including its goals and aspirations but also its history and experience and environment and that serves to distinguish that group from other groups, It is argued that cultural "identity" is not just cultural" difference or what is unique. Though individuals may have a cultural identity, strictly speaking, it is a property of groups, and not so much a property of individuals. And so there is an "old" sense of cultural identity, roughly meaning the "status quo", which, as the paper argues, is an "obsolete" sense. Cultures, to live and thrive, must be forward looking, so in place of cultural identity, it is proposed to introduce the concept of "cultural integrity", which is taken to mean "one's cultural identity open to new experience as interpreted by the dominant ideas of that culture and yet also draws the existing culture and traditions beyond where they are".


Universal Human Rights Instruments:
Adoption or Non-Adoption –
Crisis of Dialogue or the Crisis of Fanaticism

 Dr. Nasr Hamed Abuzaid
Prof. at Leiden University , the Netherlands

The relevant questions on the validity of the universal human rights instruments are whether they are Western or universal; whether they are secular or religious; and whether they represent, in matters of contents of the rights embodied therein, a particular cultural system and reflects a special world-view, or represent a general human consciousness or belief which is beyond particular cultural concepts.

The present study attempts to pose a series of questions related to the issues of culture and civilization including the adoption of either one of the principles of total incorporation of cultures or their absolute separation from each other.

Also presented are certain questions pointing to current obstacles in the so-called Western culture and present problems in the culture claiming to be the Islamic culture.