Av Khaled Abou El Fadl:
"The contemporary conception of human rights, premised on the social contract methodology of human rights - or what I call the Rousseau model of human rights, in which the negotiation between states creates a written text - poses a challenge to the faith communities. If states can negotiate a text, draft a text and produce a text, then why do we need God for the human rights tradition? We have human rights, so what does God add to this dynamic?
The divine source plays a very critical role in creating that notion of obligation, so that the obligation coming through divinity becomes an acceptance of grace, an acceptance of goodness, an acceptance of mercy and an acceptance of a blessed state, rather than simply compliance with formal legal mechanisms or the instrumentalities of law. So, in other words, positive law, negotiated law, or textual law cannot create a state of grace, cannot create a state of peace, or cannot ultimately create a state of light to represent the goodness of human rights. It can only mimic the state of grace or the state of light or the state of divinity.
[...] We often confuse the two in our own discourses. Civic rights are rights that are produced by an actual or hypothetical consensus of society. Civic rights are the rights that you have within your national boundaries because of a constitutional document or of a system of rights of any textual document. Human rights are literally that - rights that all human beings are entitled to. They are inherent and undeniable. Human rights don't require an agreement; they do not depend on anyone recognizing them or negotiating them. [...]
I often play a trick with my students: I give them a horrible narrative about a people who suffer some horrendous injustice and give them an erroneous identity - if they are Muslim, I tell my students they are Christian and vice versa. I ask them for their reaction. Once they commit their responses to writing, I tell them the actual identity of the people in the story. I get their reaction again, and the subtle change in language in how you see what is right and wrong is the space where the lack of grace shows up - where the true space of your inner darkness shows up. This is the space where the hypocrisy between civic rights and human rights shows up.
Human rights is an act of grace. Even if you don't recognize yourself as having that right, I extend it to you out of respect, as an extension of my own consciousness and sense of duty. My obligation is to present the good and offer it. Whether people accept it or not, you offer it. By offering it, you have respected my human rights. And you have upheld the principle of human rights."