23 April 2013
On Tuesday, 23 April, the House of Commons held a debate on the role of sharia courts in the United Kingdom. With frequent reference to the BBC “Panorama” program on sharia councils which aired the previous evening, Kris Hopkins (Conservative MP for Keighley) sought clarification of the Government’s position on sharia councils and a guarantee that these council would not be allowed to constitute an alternative judicial system. Citing evidence presented in the BBC documentary, Mr. Hopkins raised particular concerns over the unequal treatment of women in matters of arbitration and divorce and called for the prosecution of those suspected of wrongdoing in these affairs.
Helen Grant, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, stated plainly that “Sharia law has no jurisdiction under the law of England and Wales and the courts do not recognize it” and that “there is no parallel court system in this country, and we [the Government] have no intention of changing the position in any part of England and Wales.” Both Mr. Hopkins and the Government were careful to emphasize Britain’s proud tradition of religious tolerance and voiced a strong determination to protect the rights of all British citizens.
Mr. Hopkins was motivated to broach the issue in Parliament at least in part by a statement from the Bradford Council of Mosques calling for the formalization of sharia councils. The MP expressed particular concern over calls for government recognition of sharia councils. However, local Muslim groups were quick to distance themselves from such a position. Mujeeb Rahman, a member of the Keighley Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, asserted that U.K. Muslims do not want a separate judicial system and that sharia councils in the U.K. would benefit from operating in a more rigorous legal framework.
In Germany, Islamic theology is being introduced as a university course – a much debated issue in academic terms, but also politically.
In this interview, Mathias Rohe, Germany’s most renowned academic expert on Sharia law, talks about what this means for the development of Islam in Germany and, potentially, on a global level
Debates are ensuing amongst intelligence analysts, counterterrorism officials and Congress over whether Hasan is part of a larger trend of “homegrown radicalization” and whether changes are needed in how law enforcement investigates individuals absent evidence of crime, what kind of information intelligence agencies can collect on U.S. citizens, or how such sensitive information can be used and shared with others.
“These are questions we’ve been asking ourselves for years,” a current U.S. counterterrorism official said, adding that they remain “largely unanswered.”
This Le Figaro report suggests that both moderate and radical Muslims in France seek support on the web, that the Imam is only one of many possible guides. While it offers a place for more fundamentalist interpretations like Salafism from Saudi Arabia, the internet is also revolutionizing Muslim thought.
As Jocelyne Cesari, a scholar of Islam at Harvard University, explains, the web allows access to a multitude of perspectives, from orthodox positions to those from outsiders or liberals. This range is apparent on topics as broad as veiling to translations of the Koran. This “democratization” of the sacred text has allowed a greater number of interlocutors on all matters related to Islam.
The Centre de préfiguration des cultures d’islam has organized a variety of evening concerts and debates every evening during Ramadan at the Institute of Islamic Culture (Institut des cultures d’islam) in the 18th district in Paris.
Full-text article available here. (Some news sites may require registration)
All members of the Harvard community are cordially invited to attend the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program’s first annual conference entitled, “Interpreting the Islamic Tradition in the Contemporary World.” Events will be held on Saturday, November 3 and Sunday, November 4. The agenda for the conference events is below. The conference is free, including the lunch reception on November 3 and the Gamelan performance on November 4. The events will take place on the first floor of the Barker Center both days.
Saturday, November 3
9:30 am – 12:30 pm
Thompson Room, Barker Center
John Bowen, Washington University in Saint Louis: “Ibn Ashur in Aceh and Paris: Adapting Shar?`a by way of its Objectives”
Muhammad Qasim Zaman, Princeton University: “Religious Authority and the Language of Ijtihad in Contemporary Sunni Islam”
Asef Bayat, Leiden University: “Fun and Fundamentalism”
12:30 pm to 2:00 pm Barker Center Middle Eastern lunch reception for members of the Harvard community
2:00 pm to 5:00 pm Thompson Room, Barker Center
Said Arjomand, State University of New York-Stony Brook: “Islamic Constitutionalism: Paradoxes and Pitfalls in the Appropriation of the Islamicate Political Tradition”
Farid Esack, Harvard University: “Redeeming Islam: Constructing the Good Muslim Subject in Contemporary Religious Studies”
Omid Safi, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill: “Reforming Islam in the ’Axis of Evil’: Contesting Islam in Post-Revolutionary Iran”
Sunday, November 4
9:30 am – 12:30 pm Thompson Room, Barker Center
Mahmood Mamdani, Columbia University: “Distinguishing Bigotry from Blasphemy in Contemporary Freedom of Speech Debates”
David Cook, Rice University: “Faith and Fornication: Behind the Murji’a Debate in Contemporary Islam”
Sherman Jackson, University of Michigan: “Ibn Taymya and Black Theodicy”
12:30 pm – 2:30 pm
Barker Center Concluding remarks, closing reception
Performance by Boston Village Gamelan Group
Despite a decrease in the number of migrants arriving illegally via the Mediterranean, the number of migrants attempting to reach Italy from war-ravaged African countries such as Somalia, Eritrea, and Ethiopia show no signs of easing. Marcella Lucidi, the interior ministry official responsible for immigrations, says that the most recent arrivals are coming from Egyptian ports claiming to be Palestinian. Italy is debating new immigration laws, as it seeks to find long-lasting solutions towards dealing the transnational challenges of human migration.
Malte Lehming reflects on the revival or religions and on Islam in particular.
For the very first time, the Minister of the Interior, in charge of the religious issues, Mich_le Alliot-Marie, met today with representatives of Catholic, Protestant, Muslim and Jewish faiths. Before entering debate on each religions’ specific concerns, she wanted to expressed her attachment to the principles of la_cit_ and emphasized the role of religion and religious practices in social life, in particular amongst youth. These questions, and particularly those regarding the funding of the religious organizations, have been kept silent during the campaign for the presidential elections. They could emerge again in the following weeks. Representatives of the four faiths brought up the conclusions of the Machelon report (Sept. 2006) on the relationship between the official authorities and relgion, which call for an update of the 1905 Law on the separation of Church and State.