Brazenly, the 2012 Republican platform disowns the human rights of women, children, and persons with disabilities, the historically disadvantaged groups that are emerging from the thicket of patriarchic and Darwinian ethos. The Republican platform urges the U.S. Congress to reject the human rights convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, the human rights convention protecting the rights of the child, and the convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. The platform specifically calls on the Senate not to ratify these conventions and urges the House of Representatives not to appropriate any funds for their possible enforcement. The platform advocates an ideological repudiation of human rights treaties if the Republicans win the Senate, the House, or the White House.
Mythical American Family
Invoking American Exceptionalism, the Republican platform envisions America without human rights and detaches the nation from the entire world. As the table below shows, the women's and children's human rights conventions are universal in that almost all nations of the world with diverse cultural and religious backgrounds are parties to these treaties.
Liberal countries such as the Netherlands and Sweden and conservative countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran have ratified these treaties, though some nations make disconcerting reservations. Although the United States has signed the women's and children's conventions, Republican Senators have blocked the Senate's advice and consent, a constitutional requirement for the ratification of treaties. The disabilities convention is relatively new that opened for signature during President George W. Bush's second term. President Bush refused to sign the treaty.
In opposing the human rights treaties for women, children, and persons with disabilities, the Republican platform does not take the position that subscription to human rights treaties is unnecessary because the United States Constitution already protects these rights -- a position popular among conservative critics of international law in general and human rights in particular. The platform rather contends that the "long-range impact (of human rights treaties) on the American family is ominous or unclear." (The expression "ominous or unclear" might be a logical fallacy.)
The Republican contention that these universal treaties are harmful to the American family is deceitful. To set aside the American family as exceptional in the whole world is factually inaccurate. The American family is no different from a typical family in Canada, Australia, or the United Kingdom, all parties to these treaties. President Carter and President Clinton who signed the treaties did not believe that the human rights of women and children pose an "ominous" threat to the American family. Few Americans would avow that the American family flourishes only in vacuity of human rights.
Let us presume for the sake of argument that the mythical American family is indeed so peculiar in the world that the universal rights of women and children threaten its existential fabric. Now, one might ask, how are the rights of persons with disabilities ominous for the American family? Would the American family fare better if its sons and daughters with disabilities enjoy no rights? The Republican platform ignores the fact that the 2006 disabilities convention is substantively related to the American with Disabilities Act (1990), a federal statute enacted sixteen years before the convention. What message does the Republican platform have for Susie Doyens, born with Down syndrome, who remained speechless throughout her childhood due to social pressure and anxiety? American families were pleased, not disappointed, when Doyens competed in the Special Olympics? President Obama might sign the disabilities treaty in case he is elected for the second term, even though the Republican Senators would oppose its ratification.
Religious Liberty or Bigotry
While disowning the universal human rights treaties of women, children, and persons with disabilities, the Republican platform does not completely reject the notion of human rights. The platform devotes a petite paragraph to Protecting Human Rights. Paradoxically, however, the only human right acknowledged in the paragraph is religious freedom. The paragraph, despite its pluralistic title, mentions no other human right. Nor does the paragraph refer to any human rights treaty. The paragraph is domestic in content as it criticizes the Obama administration for "shunting aside" the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which the Republicans established "to advance the rights of persecuted peoples everywhere." Highlighting (Islamic) fanaticism in the Middle East, the paragraph promises that a "Republican Administration will return the advocacy of religious liberty to a central place in our diplomacy."
Religious liberty is a cardinal right affirmed in numerous human rights treaties. Historically, the U.S. has been a sanctuary for religious minorities fleeing Europe and elsewhere. The Republican platform is right on mark when it proclaims: "To those who stand in the darkness of tyranny, America has always been a beacon of hope, and so it must remain." The peoples of the world will welcome the Romney administration if, after winning the White House, it embarks upon protecting religious freedom in the world and at home.
Alas, there is a fly in the Republican ointment. If religious liberty is so precious, why are Republican leaders bent on persecuting American Muslims right here in the United States? Examine their record. The Oklahoma Republicans amended the state constitution to ban Sharia, a move that the federal courts declared unconstitutional. The Kansas Republicans have outlawed Sharia in both litigation and arbitration, a move that foments anti-Muslim prejudice without conferring any benefit on Kansas citizens. Many neoconservative Republicans equate Islam, the religion of more than a billion people, with fascism and communism. Peter King, the Republican Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, has been doggedly investigating American Muslims for possible links to domestic and international terrorism.
Despite the Republican-sponsored animosity against Islam, Muslim doctors, engineers, lawyers, cabdrivers, teachers, and others continue to provide valuable services in all parts of the United States. Ignoring their services, the Republican leadership is forcing American Muslim communities to cultivate a siege mentality. Micro aggressions against American Muslims are multiplying. Pastors spew revulsion against Islam. Mosques in Missouri and Tennessee have been fire-bombed. Qurans are regularly burned. Islam's prophet is repeatedly maligned. Law enforcement agencies spy on Muslim neighborhoods and infiltrate Muslim-owned businesses. Muslim inmates are committing suicide at Guantanamo. Muslim men are lured into far-fetched criminality. Muslim women wearing hijab are subjected to ridicule and discrimination. Is this the model of religious liberty that the Republican platform promises to export to the rest of the world?
Bigotry at home but liberty abroad cannot be a winning combination. The 2012 Republican platform denying human rights to women, children, persons with disabilities, and American Muslims invites denunciation across America because "a false balance is an abomination."
Follow Liaquat Ali Khan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/abukashif