Islam, Fiction and Human Rights: Amnesty International’s literature programme
Voort, L. van der
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Since 2010, Amnesty International has endorsed a body of modern literature as part of its advocacy and defence of international human rights, covering a wide range of topics, a number of which related to Islamic societies and Muslims. Amnesty’s website suggests that fiction enables the reader to step into someone else’s shoes, leading to understanding, tolerance and finally, reconciliation. The idea that Islamic values contradict with Western values makes Islam a particularly important candidate for ‘reconciliation’, that is, recognition of a common humanity, which is assumed to be the basis of universal human rights. If Amnesty, as its website suggests, believes literature to reconcile the Western reader with an image of difference, help them overcome prejudice and develop tolerance, this thesis investigates how six of these works negotiate the space between the lives they invoke, in the context of Islam, and the Western international public they address and whose interest and empathy is to be engaged. Finally, it seems the literature endorsed by Amnesty remains largely within the discursive limits of human rights, avoiding difficulties of difference and thus disabling a real transition into 'other' spaces and people that, as such, are being excluded from a definition of humanity that nevertheless claims to include all.