Inaugural Congress of the Conference of Constitutional Jurisdictions of the Islamic World (CCJ-I)
His Excellency Mr. President,
First of all, I would like to welcome you and extend you all my most sincere greetings. May Allah’s peace, mercy and blessings be upon you!
Today, we are here in this historical place to complete the establishment process that started with the conference we inaugurated in this hall exactly four years ago. On that day, we hoped that the conference, which was the first meeting organised in this field, would be instrumental in the establishment of a permanent platform.
I would like to express my great pleasure to host the inaugural congress of the Conference today. I wish the congress be auspicious and successful.
As is known, the constitutional jurisdiction mainly serves to safeguard fundamental rights and freedoms by ensuring the supremacy of the constitution. The full and proper fulfilment of this function is conditional upon the realisation of constitutional principles and values such as justice, equality, freedom, rule of law and separation of powers enshrined in constitutions, which are in the form of social contracts.
Undoubtedly, constitutional principles and values may be worded in different ways in respective times and places. However, it is also known that the values ensuring social and political unity are rooted in different cultures and civilizations.
For instance, justice has been recognized as one of the fundamental values in all societies throughout history, because the maintenance of social life is contingent on justice. Likewise, the means for securing justice is law. For the very reason, all religions that offer a set of values for an ideal society have been predicated upon law and justice.
As a matter of fact, the administration of justice is referred to as the raison d'etre of religion in the Qur’an, and it is stated that the Book and the Balance were sent down with messengers so that mankind may observe justice.1 It is known that the word balance (mîzan) here also means scales.
In almost every society, the scales are used as a symbol of justice, protecting people’s rights and ensuring that their rights are fully accorded. Therefore, it is incumbent on those who hold the scales of justice to act fairly by holding it delicately, to measure correctly and to make fair decisions. Thus, the prominent role played by the judiciary and the judge in the administration of justice among people becomes evident.
Justice and other universal values deriving from justice, such as equality, fundamental rights and freedoms are also emphasized in other sources of Islam. Among the messages that begin with “O people!” are the essential principles of sound social life, such as the prohibition of discrimination, the protection of life, property and progeny, the individuality of crimes and punishments, and the freedom of religion and conscience. Accordingly, these principles and values falling within the scope of constitutional jurisdiction are not unfamiliar to us. On the contrary, they are our core values.
His Excellency Mr. President,
The realisation of the values of our civilization, which has a rich collection of intellectual and discursive knowledge, such as justice, equality and freedom, will be a panacea for the problems experienced not only in the Muslim geography but also in the world.
We are all aware of the problems experienced. Women and children who are exposed to violence and abuse, refugees who are defined as just numbers to be reduced, those who try to survive below the starvation line, those who are punished for their beliefs or thoughts, those who are marginalised and otherised for their not being like us...
Such human-related matters from the world are the concrete manifestations of the justice deficit that we face at both national and international levels. Probably the major problem at this point is the failure to establish a sound relationship with ‘the others’.
One of the prominent persons who could depict, in the best way, the reflection of these matters in the Muslim geography is the late Alija Izetbegović. At a meeting held 25 years ago with the participation of the representatives from the Islam countries, Alija expressed “Islam is the best, but we Muslims are not the best” whereby he provided a succinct definition of the situation we are currently in.2
He did not confine himself to making a determination but also offered theoretical and practical solutions in this regard. According to Alija, the objective as a requisite of the Islamic sensitivity is to form “a society devoted to moral discipline and political freedom” and a State bound by law.3
For the fulfilment of the principle of the state governed by rule of law that is in pursuance of fundamental rights and freedoms, the judicial bodies, especially the higher courts engaging in constitutionality review, are entrusted with great responsibilities. It should be noted that the idea of protecting fundamental rights and freedoms through the judiciary reflects an understanding also prescribed by Islam.
Ibn Khaldun overemphasised, centuries ago, the need for the protection of the rights of individuals for the survival of the State. In in his work, the Muqaddimah, the infringement of individuals’ rights is defined as “tyranny”. As expressed by him, tyranny, namely infringement of rights, leads to the destruction of civilisation (umran) and thus, in the last instance, to the devastation of the State.4
Therefore, the function of the State, notably of the judiciary among the State’s organs, is to obviate tyranny and secure justice, thus protecting the individuals’ rights. In this sense, the main duty incumbent on the judge is to secure the rights enjoyed by individuals, namely to “protect the rights of people” as expressed by Ibn Khaldun.5
His Excellency Mr. President,
As you may well be aware, the realm of constitutional jurisdiction has been also extended especially by the introduction of the individual application mechanism. Today, conducting constitutionality review of norms, on one hand, and dealing with the alleged violations of fundamental rights and freedoms on the other, the constitutional courts have become indispensable institutions for the protection of constitutional rights and freedoms.
In this context, the cooperation and the exchange of experience among constitutional courts undertaking duties of a similar nature and higher judicial bodies conducting constitutionality review have become extremely important. I therefore consider that the Conference of Constitutional Jurisdictions of the Islamic World, the Inaugural Congress of which has today brought us together, offers a unique opportunity in this respect.
I hope that the Conference will, as stated in the draft Statute, make a significant contribution to the better protection of the rule of law and the fundamental rights and freedoms of everyone living in our countries by facilitating mutual exchange of knowledge and experience.
With these feelings and considerations, I wish the Congress be successful, and I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the process, especially the "Working Committee" that prepared the draft Statute of the Conference, and all the participants.
I wish you all health and prosperity.
|Prof. Dr. Zühtü ARSLAN|
|The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Türkiye|
1 Surah Al-Hadid, 57/25. See also Surah Ash-Shura 42/15: “(Oh Prophet!) Say, “I am commanded to judge fairly among you”.
2 Alija Izetbegović, Tarihe Tanıklığım (Me as a Witness to History), 14th Edition, trans. by A.Erkilet, A.Demirhan, H.Öz, (İstanbul: Klasik Yayınları, 2016), p. 415; Izetbegovic, Inescapable Questions: Autobiographical Notes, trans. by S. Risaluddin & J. Izetbegovic, (Leicester: Islamic Foundation, 2003), p. 390.
3 Izetbegović, Özgürlüğe Kaçışım: Zindandan Notlar (My Escape to Freedom, Notes from Prison), 21st Edition, trans. by H. T. Başoğlu, (İstanbul: Klasik Yayınları, 2015), p. 323; Izetbegović, Tarihe Tanıklığım, p. 77.
4 Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddimah, Volume I, prep. by Süleyman Uludağ, 9th Edition, (İstanbul: Dergah Yayınları, 2013), p. 551.
5 Ibid., p. 469.