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Lily Zakiyah Munir - Research Project
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The general purpose of the project is to assist with the implementation and dissemination of the universal messages of human rights for acceptance among Muslim communities.
The specific objectives of the project are:
1. To introduce the concept and principles of human rights and the existing debates on human rights and Islam;
2. To identify crucial human rights issues among grassroots Muslims in Indonesia for further studies from human rights and Islamic perspectives;
3. To develop participatory learning materials for public education and advocacy on Islam and human rights for grassroots communities in Indonesia.

Lily Zakiyah Munir - Interview

Describe your motivations for conducting this research project.
Over five decades after their declaration, human rights remain a subject of debate in Muslim societies, contested on intellectual grounds and with regard to their political implications. Drawing on theological and epistemological grounds, some argue that human rights are incompatible with Islam and that they are a Western creation. Others believe that the universalities of human rights are also shared by Islamic universal values.

Aside from the debates on the compatibility of Islam and human rights, one thing is clear: there is a lack of socialization and education of human rights, especially among grassroots communities ,in Indonesia. The notion of human rights is alien to most people. It is often associated with elitism, accessible only to the highly educated or the knowledgeable, secularized segments of society. Meanwhile, Muslim students in the pesantren are socialized with the five principles of Islam in the protection of human dignity (al-kulliyatul khoms), i.e. the protection of one's life, faith, intellect, progeny, and property. These fundamental principles of Islam may be perceived as corresponding to principles of human rights, and this correspondence can be used as a ground for further explorations of the compatibility of Islam and human rights. It is a conviction in these shared values between Islam and human rights that motivates this project. For human rights to move from a discourse to reality, the role of human agency in education and advocacy is indispensable. The pesantren as a socio-educational institution within the Islamic tradition in Indonesia, with its extensive outreach to communities, is a strategic locus for preparing future agents of change and social transformation. Pesantren graduates who have awareness and knowledge of human rights may serve as effective agents to promote human rights within an Islamic context.

What is your research plan for the project?
The project time span of nine months will be divided into three phases: framework development, fieldwork, and report writing.

a) Project framework development (September to mid-December 2003) will be conducted at Emory University with the guidance of Prof. Abdullahi A. An-Na'im. During this phase all relevant inputs, learning and reading materials on Islam and human rights will be gathered and inputs from other research fellows will be obtained. Relevant materials such as human rights treaties and articles on Islam and human rights will be translated or developed in the Indonesian language so that they are readable and understandable by the project participants.

b) Fieldwork (mid-December 2003 to March 2004) will be conducted in Jombang, the so-called city of a thousand pesantrens, in East Java, Indonesia. Activities during this phase will consist of the exploration of Islamic perspectives on the specific human rights issues that have been selected as the focus of the project, i.e. the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant on the Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. Information and data gathering will use the techniques such as focus group discussions and in-depth interviews with religious authorities, opinion-makers, academics and lay people, in order to identify the most crucial human rights issues for these subjects and their views on the same. Data processing and analysis will be conducted by the project team of five (researcher and four assistants). The output will take the form of drafts of learning materials and modules -- consisting of reading materials and methodologies of adult learning for delivering the teaching on relevant issues of the Covenants. The draft materials will then be tried out in workshops of 25 participants representing pesantren, religious organizations, and other public opinion-makers. Revision and adjustments will be made accordingly based on feedback from the workshops.

c) Report writing (April - May 2003) will document the analysis of project processes. It will also document outputs highlighting the workability of comparisons between Islam and human rights and mediation on their differences. The draft learning modules will be appended to the report to obtain further inputs. The final report and its supporting audio-visual documentation will be presented at the Islam and Human Rights Fellowship Program Conference in Istanbul in May 2004.

What are some of the challenges you expect in the course of your fieldwork?
The potential challenges during the fieldwork may be classified into two types: technical and substantive/paradigmatic.

Technical challenges concern the limited volume of relevant information and materials on Islam and human rights in the Indonesian language. All materials will need to be translated into the Indonesian language to be understood by most project participants.

By paradigmatic challenges I mean those issues which may stem from a traditional mindset in viewing Islam and human rights issues. Such perspectives may already have some degree of prejudice towards Islam and human rights issues, given their different epistemological frameworks. In this project, I anticipate resistance to be part of the processes of Islam and human rights education. In mediating differences between Islam and human rights, an alternative method of deriving Islamic law will be proposed by utilizing and adopting the principles in usul al- fiqh, abrogation, and maqasid al-shari'ah.

What is the current status of your research? What do you envision as the final output of the project?
So far the research is at the framework development and relevant materials collection stage.

The final output of the project will be learning materials and modules on Islam and human rights for education and advocacy purposes in the context of pesantren and grassroots Muslim communities in Indonesia. These modules, designed with adult and self-learning techniques, are equipped with case studies, learning aids, and reading materials that can be used independently, inside or outside the classroom. Audio-visual documentation of processes such as focus group discussions, workshops, and project team proceedings will also be produced at the end of the project.

How might your conceptual model and field research be implemented and communicated in various communities and contexts, and in your homeland?
The project output, learning materials, and modules on Islam and human rights are basic capital for human rights education and advocacy. The organization which I have founded, Center for Pesantren and Democracy Studies (CePDeS), will utilize these resources for its public education and advocacy programs. Other NGOs with which I am affiliated, such as the nationwide mass-based Muslim women's organization and Muslimat NU, may benefit from the project output as well. Many international donors support human rights education and advocacy programs in Indonesia, and they will certainly be able to benefit from the modules.

The development of learning modules for Islam and human rights education for pesantren and grassroots Muslim communities may be the first of its type in Indonesia. This will create a foundation for similar activities in the future.

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Lily Zakiyah Munir - Research-in-Progress Documents

Presentation - Islam, Modernity and Justice for Women
Download in MS Word format.

Read more articles by Lily Zakiyah Munir

Images from Presentation - Islam, Modernity and Justice for Women,
October 14, 2003

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Images credit: Islam and Human Rights Fellowship Program

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