This paper advances a framework for the evaluation of Sharia (Islamic law) with respect to the modern notion of international human rights law. The paper argues that certain universal standards of human rights and freedoms, as understood and formulated in international human rights documents, lack precise equivalents in Islamic law, and some generally-accepted principles of Sharia contradict corresponding principles of international human rights law. Sharia's response to the idea of human rights and traditional interpretation of Islamic law are hard to reconcile with international human rights norms and standards. It is also argued that the application of Sharia, public and criminal law in particular, is problematic and results in deficiencies and hardship in Muslim societies. This paper contributes to the debate on Islamic reformism and human rights in arguing that Sharia's contradiction of universal human rights norms cannot be avoided, and that traditional mechanisms of reform within the framework of Sharia are inadequate for achieving the necessary degree of reform. It is suggested that, based on a cross-cultural dialogue and intellectual debate, an essential and primary reform should define the objective foundations of human rights in reason and human dignity, not on Sharia criteria and qualifications.
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