European Court of Justice on Human Dignity and the Patentability of Human Embryos

An interesting judgment from the European Court of Justice this week relating to work with human embryonic stem cells: In response to a certification from the German Federal Court of Justice, the ECJ held that the European Directive on the Legal Protection of Biotechnological Inventions (1998) forbids the patenting of human embryos, or techniques that require the destruction of human embryos, for industrial or commercial purposes, including purposes of scientific research. The Directive prohibits patents for “uses of human embryos for industrial or commercial purposes,” and indicates that this prohibition extends to all processes that “offend against” the fundamental principle of “human dignity.” The ECJ concluded that the Directive’s reference to “human dignity” required that the phrase “human embryo” be “understood in a wide sense” to include not only fertilized human eggs, but also unfertilized eggs and stem cells, if they are “capable of commencing the process of development of a human being.”

The concept of human dignity is a fundamental one in European law; many religious-freedom cases in the ECtHR employ it, for example. The concept is not so prominent in American jurisprudence, which tends to be more libertarian. Some scholars argue that roots of the principle in European law lie in Catholic Social Theory, and the principle is certainly consistent with Christian ethics. I assume that, like most concepts in European jurisprudence, the principle has roots in Enlightenment thought as well. The judgment is Brüstle v. Greenpeace (Grand Chamber) (18 Oct. 2011). – MLM

Pathan on the Status of Women in Islam

Parveen Ara Pathan has posted Idea of Right of Maintenance of Woman in Islam and Socio Legal Development in India. The abstract follows. -JKH

Challenging status of woman in society is not an exception in reference to India but she shares a common bonding in this regard with every woman in the world. Her status is defined in vague terms everywhere irrespective of any country orreligion, she lives in or religion she follows. But in Islam a dignified status is given to every woman together with clear definitions of her rights allotted through Holy Quran, Sunna, and other sources of law. Right of maintenance is the basic right of livelihood of woman, includes not only the means of survival but also a right to dignified life full of respect and facilities. In every phase of her life as a daughter, wife, mother, widow, or divorcée she is entitled to right to be maintained in well condition throughout her life. In developing country like India her right of maintenance is not affected by the socio economic policies. This article focus on status of woman in Islam, her right of maintenance as given in Islam with relating legal provisions as in Indian legislation together with difficulties faced by Indian Muslim women in their fight of maintenance. A thought provoking discussion on relation of right of maintenance and human rights is also included.

Bowen’s “Can Islam Be French?”

Princeton University Press has just published the paperback edition of Can Islam Be French?: Pluralism and Pragmatism in a Secularist State (first published in 2009) by John R. Bowen (Washington University St. Louis).  The publisher’s description follows. — MOD

Can Islam Be French? is an anthropological examination of how Muslims are responding to the conditions of life in France. Following up on his book Why the French Don’t Like Headscarves, John Bowen turns his attention away from the perspectives of French non-Muslims to focus on those of the country’s Muslims themselves. Bowen asks not the usual question–how well are Muslims integrating in France?–but, rather, how do French Muslims think about Islam? In particular, Bowen examines how French Muslims are fashioning new Islamic institutions and developing new ways of reasoning and teaching. He looks at some of the quite distinct ways in which mosques have connected with broader social and political forces, how Islamic educational entrepreneurs have fashioned niches for new forms of schooling, and how major Islamic public actors have set out a specifically French approach to religious norms. All of these efforts have provoked sharp responses in France and from overseas centers of Islamic scholarship, so Bowen also looks closely at debates over how–and how far–Muslims should adapt their religious traditions to these new social conditions. He argues that the particular ways in which Muslims have settled in France, and in which France governs religions, have created incentives for Muslims to develop new, pragmatic ways of thinking about religious issues in French society.