NEWS | 24 Oct 2016
Islamic Law and Policy: Privacy in Islamic Legal History

Utrecht University's Chair of Arabic and Islamic Studies Christian Lange takes a historical view on the question of privacy in Islamic law. On his review of the medieval discussions of privacy, he notes that they arise mainly in the domain of the private sphere of the family and sometimes have trickle-down effects into the criminal law arena. "Norms, attitudes, and concepts implying an "ethos of anti-exhibitionism," including the "inviolability (ḥurma) and dignity (karāma) of the human body," are relaxed for family members. Within criminal law, high standards of evidence protect familial privacy by deterring baseless accusations of criminal misconduct, in part, by excluding evidence obtained from outsiders' prying eyes. [Consider this an early form of the U.S. exclusionary rule, which some Justices believe to be unique to American law!] Nevertheless, Lange concludes that the traditional notion of privacy in Islamic law is a concept that "lack[s] conceptual autonomy." Codified absolutes are uncommon. As a result, "[g]eneralizations are to be avoided, but communal interests seem to play a more important role in Islamic legal regulations of privacy than the protection of the rights of the individual." Read moreImage credit: Emirates Review

Islamic Law and Policy: Privacy in Islamic Law in the Modern State
Guest contributors Vidusha Mardi and Bhaira Acharya examine issues of privacy and the state in Islamic law with the baseline argument that privacy is the default rule in Islamic law and that the public sphere, into which the state may intrude, is the exception to this rule. As they put it, Islamic law recognizes that "every society [must] impose certain requirements on individuals by the law and by societal norms," but anything not explicitly located within the worldly public sphere is assumed to reside within the domain of the private sphere. While the individual's relationship with the divine demands that she always "ordain good and forbid evil," state intrusion could be considered a trespass on a relationship meant to remain between the individual and the divine. Such invasion is, in the opinion of many modern jurists, "'exactly what Islam has called as the root cause of mischief in politics.'" Their views come from a longer report on privacy in Islamic law written for the Centre for Internet & Society in Bengaluru, India: Identifying Aspects of Privacy in Islamic Law Read more. Image credit: Reuters
MLTalks Series at MIT: Intisar Rabb and Manal Omar in conversation with Ethan Zuckerman

Wed, Oct 19 | 1.00-2.00pm Ethan Zuckerman, MIT; Intisar Rabb, Harvard Law School; Manal Omar, USIP. Presented at the MIT Media Lab. 

Ethan Zuckerman framed the conversation with HLS Professor and SHARIAsource Editor-in-Chief Intisar Rabb and USIP VP for the Middle East Manal Omar as a discussion within a larger approach of the Media Lab’s aim to engage in solution-making dialogue from a techno-social perspective. Last week’s discussion tackled pressing questions of Islamic law as it intersects with American society and politics, civil rights, and US-based foreign policy for Muslim-majority countries. Omar provided insights on how humanitarian aid and development activities benefit from implementing strategies that incorporate religious literacy and the moral authority of religious leaders who appeal to sharīʿa as a working knowledge set. Rabb discussed the link between sharīʿa and civil rights in the American context, as the legacy of Muhammad Ali most powerfully demonstrates. Waves of African-Americans became Muslim out of impetus to fight for civil rights, seeing Islam as an equalizing force and sharīʿa as a call to fight for justice. For her, that legacy represented just one instance of a larger trend within a decidedly American experience of sharīʿa, one that she referred to in shorthand as "civil rights sharīʿa." When asked about the role of sharīʿa in educational and policy contexts, Rabb provided a framework for approaching discussions of Islamic law both online and offline -- in ways that track the major inspiration and mission of SHARIAsource in its design to provide content and context on Islamic law. Namely, she stressed the need to consider a large number of source materials, cultural contexts, and political realities when approaching any analysis of the meaning and application of Islamic law. Image credit: Paul Beran

Other News

American Society of Legal History Annual Meeting (27-30 Oct 2016 | Toronto, Canada). Ottoman editor Will Smiley and Professor Intisar Rabb, SHARIAsource founding editor-in-chief, will present at the ASLH Annual Meeting on the panel "Borderlands of Islamic Law: The Ottoman Empire and its Neighbors." Also at ASLH, Egyptian law and society historian Khaled Fahmy will present his paper "Global Forensics: Medico-Legal History in Asia and Africa" on a panel chaired by Mitra Sharafi. See preliminary program.

"PersDig@UMD, OpenITI, and the Construction of the Infrastructure for ‘Digital Humanities’ Scholarship on the Premodern Islamicate World" (11 Nov 2016 | Princeton, NJ). Roshan Institute Research Fellow and Associate Director of the Roshan Initiative in Persian Digital Humanities (PersDig@UMD) Matthew Thomas Miller will be speaking on his recent work. Organized by the Institute for Advanced Study as part of their Digital Scholarship Conversations. Read more.

Middle East Studies Association Annual Meeting (17-20 Nov 2016 | Boston, MA). MESA’s annual meeting will host a range of panels on Islamic law, including  "Policing and Punishment in the Making of the Modern Middle East," "Is Saudi Foreign Policy 'Islamic'?," "Islamic Religious Authority between the Arab World and Europe: Multi-tasked and Multi-tasking Imams" (Denmark contributor Niels Valdemar Vinding will be presenting), "International Law, Sovereignty and Subjecthood in the Late Ottoman Empire" (Ottoman editor Will Smiley will be a discussant), "Legal Contests & Disputes, Part I," "Law as Social History in the Late Ottoman Era," "Legal Contests & Disputes, Part 2."  See full preliminary program.

"Qur’anists in al-Andalus?" (5 Apr 2017 4 pm | Princeton, NJ). Incoming ILSP: SHARIAsource and CMES senior fellow Maribel Fierro will be speaking as part of the Institute for Advanced Study's Near/Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Lecture Series 2016/2017. She explores the production of religious and political authority sharing her study of how prophets accepted by Islam are represented. See full details. 

Workshop on Arabic Periodicals (12 Nov 2016 | Durham, NC). Professor Adam Mestyan of Duke University is organizing a small workshop on early Arabic periodicals. See full details.

Witteveen Memorial Fellowship in Law and Humanities (Spring 2017 | Tilburg ). Tilburg University is establishing the annual Witteveen Memorial Fellowship in Law and Humanities in order to commemorate the life and work of Willem Witteveen. The fellowship aims to enable a junior scholar (PhD or postdoc level) to further develop his or her research in the area of ‘Law and Humanities’ during a visit to Tilburg. Applications are due on 15 Nov. Read more. 

2017 Annual Meeting of the Association for the Study of Law, Culture & the Humanities at Stanford University (21 Mar-01 Apr 2017 | Palo Alto, CA) . The Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities is now accepting panel and paper proposals for their twentieth annual meeting. Proposals that include complete panels or focus on pedagogy, methodology, author-meets-readers sessions, or performance (theatrical, cinematic, musical, and poetic) are strongly encouraged. Abstracts of 250 words or less are due on  28 Oct Read more .

The Hurst Summer Institute in Legal History (4-17 Jun 2017 | Madison, WI).  The American Society for Legal History and the Institute for Legal Studies at the University of Wisconsin Law School are now accepting applications for their ninth biennial Hurst Summer Institute in Legal History. Applications are due on  1 Dec Read more. 

“Law as Religion, Religion as Law” (5-7 Jun 2017 | Jerusalem). The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has issued a call for papers to bring together scholars from multiple disciplines (including law, religious studies, philosophy, history, political science and other relevant fields). Abstracts are due on 26 Oct.  Call for papers.

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