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Some Governments Using Islam to Avoid Equal Rights for All, says Nobel Laureate - 2004-03-18

The Iranian Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi has told a conference in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, that some governments are using Islam to avoid giving equal rights to all.

Shirin Ebadi has long stirred controversy in her own country with her campaign for the rights of women and children. She has maintained that Islam is a protector of the rights of women.

Addressing a conference on Islam and universal values in Jakarta, she said that some governments were using religion to avoid committing to international human rights treaties.

She did not name any countries, but she said that Islam was being misused.

Ms. Ebadi says that the countries where women's rights are being abused are generally the same countries where democracy is weakest. The problem, she says, is not about gender, but culture.

Ms. Ebadi says human rights are universal, and cannot be redefined by each religion. She was especially critical of an Islamic declaration of human rights approved by the Organization of the Islamic Conference in 1990. She said that, if the declaration is ratified, it would further divide the world's religions.

She says discrimination is not a part of Islam, however, many abusive regimes use the religion to justify injustices against their citizens.