Resources on Faith, Ethics and Public Life

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

December 10, 1948

Adopted by the United Nations in 1948, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) represents the first attempt to set international standards for human rights. The document guarantees these rights to all people regardless of their country or any distinction such as religion. Article 18 ensures freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, specifically in the context of rights to education and to marriage. The declaration has been translated into over 335 languages and has been a model for revised constitutions. It has been praised by many Western entities. However, it has also faced criticism on Islamic and conservative grounds; several predominantly Muslim countries criticized the document as a product of secularized Judeo-Christian traditions. Claiming that it would be impossible to implement the UDHR in cultural and religious contexts of Islamic countries, the Organization of the Islamic Conference adopted the alternative Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam in 2000.

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