NEWS | 24 Jan 2017
The Danial Latifi Case and the Indian Supreme Court’s Balancing Act

Islamic law is before the Supreme Court of India again, with the question of whether triple-ṭalāq is a valid way of dissolving a marriage: by a man simply pronouncing that his wife is divorced by saying that word three times. To understand where the Court might be going requires a bit of background. Following the 1985 Shah Bano case in India, the Indian Supreme Court was faced with protests from the Indian Muslim community over its perceived interference in Islamic personal law. This response revealed the political complexity of executing the Supreme Court's dedication to defending the constitutional rights of all its citizens. India editor Akhila Kolisetty uses the passage of the 1986 Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act in 1986 and the Danial Latifi v. Union of India (2001) that followed to explicate the Indian Supreme Court's unenviable position of balancing gender and religious equity. The Muslim Women Act of 1986 limited maintenance payments to the iddat period (the three-month waiting period for divorce in Islamic law), leading to negative responses from women's rights organizations. Danial Latifi, Shah Bano's lawyer, challenged the constitutionality of the Act, calling it discrimination against Muslim women on the basis of their religion. Under the Act, women were excluded from the protections of the Indian Constitution's Articles 14, 15, and 21. The Court resolved this constitutionality quagmire by finding that a Muslim husband must pay the "reasonable and fair amount needed to maintain his ex-wife for the rest of her total during the iddat period." This type of understated but sufficient solution "exemplifies a pattern within the Supreme Court’s approach to Muslim personal law: claims that "promote Muslim women’s gender equity while also limiting [the Court's] intervention into Islamic personal law to avoid potential backlash." Read more. Image credit: Frontline

LEGISLATION::Muslim Women Protection Act of 1986

The Muslim Women Protection of Divorce Rights for Muslim Women Act was passed in 1986 in response to the Muslim Indian community's outcry against the Indian Supreme Court's decision in the Shah Bano case (1985). The Court held that a Muslim husband must pay maintenance amounts to his ex-wife for life-maintenance during the divorce waiting period. But many Muslim leaders considered this to be an intrusion onto their practice and perspectives on traditional Islamic personal law. The Act in effect overrode the Court's decision of 1985, limiting maintenance provisions to those that would be due during the divorce-waiting period alone (traditionally three months). Read more. Image credit: India Times

TRENDING: When Is a Texas "Poll" about Sharīʿa Not Really a Poll and Not Really about Sharīʿa? 
A Texas state legislator, Representative Kyle Biedermann, recently sent out what he called a poll to mosques across the state. It was a seven-page series of documents that selectively drew on false notions of Islamic law (i.e. sharīʿa) that are uninformed by fact, history, or sociological practice.  Sharīʿa , in fact, is the Arabic word for an ideal of justice, and often is used to refer to  fiqh  -- manmade constructions of that ideal. To refer to either is to refer to a broad and diverse legal system that is informed by different cultural contexts, scholarly interpretations, and community discussions over time and space. These facts' absence from the poll underscore the need for more informed discussion about Islamic law, or sharīʿa, especially as it becomes more and more a matter of  local  and  national  debate in our legislatures and  courts .  
Other News

In Summary
UN Forum on Combating Anti-Muslim Discrimination
A number of UN and government representatives, in the waning days of the Obama Administration, organized a meeting that brought together a range of actors invested in combating Muslim discrimination on the basis of Muslim identity, often conflated with Islamic law (sharīʿa) and violence. The meeting included UN representatives, delegates, and advisors, as well as leaders in civil society organizations working on issues related to anti-Muslim discrimination and bias. SHARIAsource was involved to expose the intersection of anti-Muslim and anti-sharīʿa activities, such as the legislation introduced in some 22 states and with proposed legislation in the federal government. It advocated the need for defining Islamic law based on informed analysis by experts and from an academic approach. SHARIAsource’s focus on the topic of Islamic law was unique among the attendees for its attention to Islamic law using an academic approach. Most of the other participants and presenters focused on policy application and public policy engagement related to anti-Muslim discrimination. Representing SHARIAsource, executive director Paul Beran said of the meeting, “The three target audiences of SHARIAsource – academics, journalists, and policy makers – situate the development of context and content on Islamic law that we provide outside of the policy application and critique discussion. However, it does provide a rich source for building bridges with individuals and organizations working in those areas.”

Senior Scholars in the News
Professor Khaled Abou El Fadl comments on newly proposed federal legislation to declare the Muslim Brotherhood, a “foreign terrorist organization,” based on a view of that organization as one that instrumentally uses Islamic law, or sharīʿa, to justify violent extremism; the declaration would extend to all American Muslim organizations with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Noah Feldman comments on the implications a recent decision in the Supreme Court of India has for religious minorities – including Muslims who identify by faith and with respect to Islamic law (which has constitutional recognition as a personal status law of a minority group).

In another article, Noah Feldman discusses some of the harms of profiling, especially in conflating Muslim with Middle Easterner as a threat – and relates to recent attempts of some activists and extremists to falsely claim that Islamic law or sharīʿa requires violence or terrorism against non-Muslims.

International Pluralism Conference (09-11 Aug 2017| Syracuse, NY). The conference is organized in collaboration with the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University. The conference theme is: Citizenship, Legal Pluralism and Governance in the Age of Globalization. Prior to the conference, from 4-7 August, a course will be organized for young scholars on the main theories, themes and methodologies of legal pluralism. More information on the course can be foundhere. To get an impression of the previous conference and course, you can already have a look at the information provided below. Paper proposals due 31 Jan 2017Read more.

Abdallah S. Kamel Fellowships in Islamic Law and Civilization (Fall 2017-Spring 2018 | New Haven, CT).  The Abdallah S. Kamel Center is seeking scholars from diverse backgrounds and academic disciplines who have completed or are near completion of an advanced degree (e.g., Ph.D., J.S.D., D.Phil.) and whose work engages with the intellectual and social history of Islam, Islamic legal and political theory, or law in contemporary Muslim societies. Scholars working or studying abroad are welcome to apply. Fellows are expected to be in residence for the duration of the one-year fellowship and will receive a stipend in the range of $45,000 and $60,000 commensurate with their education and experience. Traveling expenses of fellows coming from abroad will be covered. Applications due 1 Feb 2017 . Read more.

Call for Papers for MESA's 51st Annual Meeting (18-21 Nov 2017 | Washington, DC). MESA invites submissions from its members for its 51st annual meeting. Submissions may be in the form of pre-organized panels, pre-organized roundtables, or individual papers (to be formed into panels by the program committee). Submissions due 15 Feb 2017. Read more.

2017 Law & Social Inquiry Graduate Student Paper Competition (1 Jan-1 Mar 2017). Submissions are now being accepted for Law & Social Inquiry's annual competition for the best journal-length paper in the field of law and social science written by a graduate or law student. Law & Social Inquiry publishes empirical and theoretical studies of sociolegal processes from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Entries due 1 Mar 2017. Read more.

Temple Bar Scholarships (2-27 Oct 2017 | London). The Temple Bar Foundation is accepting applications for its scholarship program. Selected scholars will have the opportunity to shadow a barrister and observe and discuss English trial practice, s pend time with a justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, o bserve appellate arguments, d iscuss legal issues with the country’s highest judges. Applications due 30 Apr 2017. Read more.

Al-Qasimi Chair (Professor/Associate Professor) in Islamic Studies, IAIS, University of Exeter (Exeter, UK). The post holder will be a leading international figure with the ability to attract high quality researchers at doctoral and postdoctoral level to the Islamic Studies research group. Any area of Islamic Studies is an appropriate specialism including (but not limited to) history, theology, philosophy, literature, mysticism, law, jurisprudence, art and architecture, art history, anthropology and sociology, digital humanities, and any period of the study of Islam. Applications due 1 May 2017Read more.

Engagement Lab @ Emerson College: MA in Civic Media, Art, and Practice (Boston, MA). For those who have an interest in digital Islamic law/humanities, and want graduate training to better prepare for an academic or industry career in the field, the Engagement Lab is accepting applications for their graduate program. Read more.

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