Human rights are, literally, the rights that one has simply by being a human being. The maximum level, or common standard, of the protection of human rights can be seen in the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR was proclaimed in a Resolution of the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948. It lists numerous rights to which people everywhere are entitled.
Many Muslim scholars are firm in their belief that shari'a addresses the fundamentals of human rights. For instance, they identify the most important human rights principles in Islam to be: dignity and brotherhood; equality among members of the community, without distinction on the basis of race, colour, or class; respect for the honour, reputation, and family of each individual; the right of each individual to be presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty, and individual freedom. This position suggests that Islamic law does protect human rights, but according to its own set of values. These values are fixed in divine law and are considered to be superior to any law created by humans and established by international institutions. Those Muslim scholars use the concept of cultural relativism to legitimize their adherence to shari'a vis-à-vis human rights.
Some tensions occur concerning, for instance, the allegedly unequal treatment of women in the Muslim world and religious liberty, including the rights to change one's belief and to inter religious marriage. This epitomizes the tension between human rights in Islam, as they exist in relation to obligations towards God, fellow humans and nature, and the human rights adopted by international human rights institutions, which are devoid of any religious coercion.
This tension led several Muslims from Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to establish the 1981 Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights (UIDHR), issued by the Islamic Council for Europe. In 1990, the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam was adopted by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). While the Islamic Council for Europe is a non-governmental organization (NGO), whose statements are by no means binding, the OIC brings together representatives of all Islamic states. Hence the Cairo Declaration, albeit not legally binding, does carry some political authority. As will be discussed, these documents reflect a formal shari'a approach.