Islamic countries use religion to excuse rights abuses: Nobel laureate

Some Islamic countries are using the religion as a pretext for refusing to observe human rights, Nobel peace prizewinner and Iranian human rights campaigner Shirin Ebadi said on Thursday.

"Islam is the religion of equality and has no contradiction with the declaration of human rights," Ebadi told a seminar in the Indonesian capital.

"Any reference to unchangeable religious and cultural relativity is an excuse to evade observing human rights."

Ebadi, giving the keynote speech at the seminar on Islam and Universal Values, said Islamic countries were signatories to most international rights treaties since there was no fundamental contradiction with Islamic principles.

"However they evade implementing the said treaties through religious excuses as they find it difficult to comply with human rights treaties and conventions," she said, speaking in Farsi with an English translation.

Ebadi, 56, has spearheaded a drive for rights for women and children in her own country, provoking the wrath of powerful hardliners.

Last November she joined 2,500 Iranians demonstrating for the release of political prisoners and a referendum on the future of the country.

Last month she criticised the mass disqualification of reformist candidates from legislative elections before the European parliament in Brussels.

Ebadi referred to an Islamic declaration of human rights approved at a meeting of foreign ministers of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in 1990.

She said ratification of such a declaration would "result in catastrophic consequences for the whole world including Islamic countries. Such a move would enable every religion to declare a human rights declaration of its own."

The Nobel laureate also told the seminar that "Islam is not a religion of violence and terror" and violence in its name should not be seen as an Islamic action.

She said violence by one side in the Bosnian war was not linked to Christianity. And Israel's decision to ignore several United Nations resolutions, "and evil in that part of the world," should not be registered under the name of Judaism.

Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-populated nation, has suffered a spate of bombings in recent years.

Most, including the Bali attack which killed 202 people in October 2002, have been blamed an the al-Qaeda-linked network which calls itself Jamaah Islamiyah (Islamic community).