The Cultural Relativism Trap
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This chapter examines obsolete cultural relativist claims against the compatibility of universal human rights with Middle Eastern, Muslim-majority societies. It seeks to redress widely held misconceptions of the Middle East’s capacity for freedom and rights recognition by suggesting that it is a function of historical circumstances including the Western colonial legacy and ongoing foreign presence in the region. It is also a function of a state’s given liberal or illiberal impulse, not fixed cultural or religious attitudes. Specific examples, such as an exploration of historical human rights precedents in the region starting from the Cyrus Cylinder, through to role of moderate Muslim networks, are discussed and contextualized.