What world do you live in? This should be a simple question for anyone to answer – Earth. But some have fallen into using the language of policy wonks that the world actually has multiple “worlds” within it. For example, you continually hear references to “the Muslim world,” including President Obama’s recent comments to the press. What is exactly is a “Muslim world,” and why would we accept segregation of part of world to only belong to one identity group?
If government leaders, policy makers, and the press started referring to “the white world,” “the black world,” “the Christian world,” etc., wouldn’t we be asking them “what are you talking about”? But the segregationist concept of a so-called “Muslim world” is so ingrained and accepted within foreign policy dialogue that we continue to see the use of this phrase. This includes people that know better. I was recently asked about a challenge in the “Muslim world.” As I stated then, our biggest problem with extremism as an ideology is the idea that we would ever accept a segregationist concept as a “Muslim world.”
How can we be responsible for equality and liberty as universal human rights, but on the other hand give credence to the idea that part of our shared Earth should be segregated as a so-called “Muslim world”? Or any other type of “world,” other than one world — our shared Earth?
Presumably what such people mean to say is that they are referring to areas that are predominantly populated by individuals that follow some form of Islam. As you can see, it is much quicker to simply say “Muslim world.”
But such expediency in terminology is really wrong. Imagine us fighting 1960s segregation in America by being willing to accept the concept that there should be a “white America” versus a “black America.” Just like we are a United States of America, we also have just one world.
The idea that there is a “Muslim world” sets expectations that segregation in the 21st century is somehow acceptable. It sets expectations that our universal truths of human equality and liberty can somehow be only partially accepted to accommodate so-called “local cultures.” In our global dialogue and policies, we simply cannot accept setting expectations that we accept segregation of the world or that we accept anything less than the universality of human equality and liberty.
In 2007, then Senator Barack Obama defined the enemy to freedom. In addressing “the war we need to win,” he stated that America’s enemies “seek to create a repressive caliphate. To defeat this enemy, we must understand who we are fighting against, and what we are fighting for.” However, it is precisely the concept of a “Muslim world” that those who “seek to create a repressive caliphate” are fighting for. There is only one world, not a world that can be segregated into a “Muslim world.” So when President Obama tells the press of the need for “partnership with the Muslim world,” he needs to go back and think about how we accept a segregation of a so-called “Muslim world,” while challenging those who seek to create a caliphate (which he has identified as our enemies).
As Barack Obama has also told us, we also “must understand… what we are fighting for.” We are fighting for more than tactics, more than maneuvers, and more than individual theaters of battle. If we are not fighting for the universal human rights of equality and liberty as our first priority, then we better step back and ask what indeed we are fighting for.
The universal human rights of equality and liberty are not an attempt at political “hegemony,” and they are not an attempt to control others. There are many who find the idea of freedom to be terribly inconvenient to their “local cultures.” But freedom is not merely about convenience, freedom is not merely about popularity, freedom is not merely about adapting, and the right to human freedom is not merely your or my opinion. The freedoms of human equality and liberty are a universal truth of human rights.
These truths are declared as fundamental to our identity as human beings – no matter who we are, where we live, and what we do. Our government leaders must never forget these basic truths on human rights.
On April 4, 2009, President Obama was asked about an extremist law signed by President Karzai in Afghanistan that would legalize rape and oppression of Muslim women. President Obama stated that “we think that it is very important for us to be sensitive to local culture, but we also think that there are certain basic principles that all nations should uphold, and respect for women and respect for their freedom and integrity is an important principle.” (emphasis added)
Universal truths of human rights are universal. If America ever starts believing that we can be “sensitive to local culture(s)” that legalize any attack on the universal truths of human equality and liberty, then we no longer accept such universal truths of human equality and liberty. We must start by rejecting the very concept of a segregated “Muslim world.” Moreover, our responsibility for equality and liberty to all human beings, including Muslim women, must never be hesitant, halting, or situational.
We don’t THINK that there are “basic principles that all nations should uphold,” we KNOW that the universal truths of human equality and liberty apply everywhere and to every culture. That is what “universal” means. That is what “truths” mean. We don’t think all nations SHOULD uphold these rights, we believe it is the RIGHT of every individual in the world to human equality and liberty.
Such truths are not just a good idea, and they are not just malleable opinions dependent on “local cultures.” We have only one world. We have only one humanity. All of humanity in our shared Earth has the human rights of equality and liberty. This is not a question. This is not an opinion. This is not just what we “think,” whether we are an average citizen or we are a president.
We hold these truths to be self-evident.