Human Rights Mean Nothing Unless We Defend Real, Threatened People

9 December, 2019

British writer, lecturer and broadcaster Kenan Malik considers what Hannah Arendt 70 years ago called the “right to have rights.” It’s an idea which speaks to many contemporary debates, from the migrant crisis to the question of whether terrorist returnees should have their citizenship revoked. The frailty of all rights means they become meaningless unless they apply to, and are defended for, everyone.

“If we allow states to detain, abuse and bar migrants on the grounds that they are not citizens, if we permit authorities to vilify and discriminate against minorities on the grounds that they don’t truly belong, if we accept that governments can arbitrarily revoke citizenship on the grounds that some are politically unacceptable, we not only deny others their rights; we expose the fragility of our rights, too. And in excluding from the political community those who are “human and nothing but”, we make all our rights more fragile still.” So how do we safeguard the rights we currently enjoy?

The Guardian, 10 March 2019. Read the full article here.

In April 2019 at the Wheeler Centre CEO Vanessa Pigrum and Kenan Malik shared a thought-provoking exploration of identity politics – its history and current role in global politics. Malik contends that ‘Contemporary identity politics is less about confronting injustice than about rebranding it.’ So, what do we mean by identity politics? How does the debate about identity relate to the wider debates that now dominate politics, on immigration, populism and diversity? The roots of identity politics – from its nationalist, anti-Enlightenment roots, through the struggles of the civil rights movement to the present day. (Listen to that conversation here.)