Here’s an article, from the St. John’s Law School website, on the inaugural session of the Joint Colloquium in Law and Religion, which the Center hosted with Villanova Law School this semester. The Joint Colloquium, which featured leading law and religion scholars, used innovative “virtual classroom” technology to allow students and faculty at both schools to participate simultaneously through a synchronous video link.
Joint Colloquium with Michael Walzer
From the article:
Michael Walzer (Institute for Advanced Studies) discussed the ethics of war in classical and contemporary Jewish law. Legal historian Sarah Barringer Gordon (University of Pennsylvania) explained how the availability of the corporate form empowered African-American congregations in the early national period. Kristine Kalanges (Notre Dame University School of Law) explored the relationship between Islamic law and contemporary ideas about constitutionalism and human rights. Kent Greenawalt (Columbia Law School) and Donald L. Drakeman (Cambridge University) both presented papers on Originalism. Greenawalt argued that factors other than the original understanding inevitably will and should play an important role in constitutional interpretation. Drakeman offered a methodological middle ground, one that takes account of both original intent and original meaning. Steven D. Smith (University of San Diego School of Law) critiqued the standard account of American religious freedom, and asked whether religious freedom in America today is suffering a decline.
The virtual classroom enriched the discussions by allowing for a fruitful exchange between participants at the two host schools. After the speakers presented their papers, students had the opportunity to ask questions and present their own insights and opinions on the issues.
This was our first experience with virtual classroom technology, and it was highly successful. You can read more about the joint colloquium, and view a photo gallery, here. Thanks to everyone who made it possible, and see you next time!
This June, Cambridge University Press will publish Buddhism and Law: An Introduction edited by Rebecca Redwood French (SUNY Buffalo) and Mark A. Nathan (SUNY Buffalo). The publisher’s description follows.
As the first comprehensive study of Buddhism and law in Asia, this interdisciplinary volume challenges the concept of Buddhism as an apolitical religion without implications for law. Buddhism and Law draws on the expertise of the foremost scholars in Buddhist studies and in law to trace the legal aspects of the religion from the time of the Buddha to the present. In some cases, Buddhism provided the crucial architecture for legal ideologies and secular law codes, while in other cases it had to contend with a preexisting legal system, to which it added a new layer of complexity. The wide-ranging studies in this book reveal a diversity of relationships between Buddhist monastic codes and secular legal systems in terms of substantive rules, factoring, and ritual practices. This volume will be an essential resource for all students and teachers in Buddhist studies, law and religion, and comparative law.
This June, Cambridge University Press will publish Biblical Narrative and the Formation of Rabbinic Law by Jane L. Kanarek (Hebrew College). The publisher’s description follows.
This book presents a new framework for understanding the relationship between biblical narrative and rabbinic law. Drawing on legal theory and models of rabbinic exegesis, Jane L. Kanarek argues for the centrality of biblical narrative in the formation of rabbinic law. Through close readings of selected Talmudic and midrashic texts, Kanarek demonstrates that rabbinic legal readings of narrative scripture are best understood through the framework of a referential exegetical web. She shows that law should be viewed as both prescriptive of normative behavior and as a meaning-making enterprise. By explicating the hermeneutical processes through which biblical narratives become resources for legal norms, this book transforms our understanding of the relationship of law and narrative as well as the ways in which scripture becomes a rabbinic document that conveys legal authority and meaning.
Next month, I.B. Tauris will publish Islamic Finance and Law: Theory and Practice in a Globalized World by Maha-Hanaan Balala (Oxford). The publisher’s description follows.
Islamic commercial and financial practice has not experienced the trial-and-error style of development that has characterized the development of the common law in the English-speaking world. Many of the principles, rules and practices prevalent in the Islamic law of contract, commerce, finance and property remain the same as those outlined by the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad, and expounded by scholars of jurisprudence as far back as the 13th century, despite the advancement in time and sophistication of commercial interaction. Hanaan Balala here demonstrates how, in order to bridge the gap between the principles outlined by the Quran and the Prophet in the 7th century and commercial practice in the 21st century, Islamic finance jurisdictions need to open themselves to learning from the experience (including the mistakes) of the English common law. “Islamic Finance and Law: Theory and Practice in a Globalized World” provides an analysis of the fundamental principles underlying the Islamic law of contract and commercial practice in comparison with their equivalents in common law in the English-speaking world. It seeks to draw parallels (and differences where appropriate) to facilitate the growth and development of Islamic commercial and financial law globally.
Next month, Stanford University Press will publish Nation and Family: Personal Law, Cultural Pluralism, and Gendered Citizenship in India by Narendra Subramanian (McGill University). The publisher’s description follows.
The distinct personal laws that govern the major religious groups are a major aspect of Indian multiculturalism and secularism, and support specific gendered rights in family life. Nation and Family is the most comprehensive study to date of the public discourses, processes of social mobilization, legislation and case law that formed India’s three major personal law systems, which govern Hindus, Muslims, and Christians. It for the first time systematically compares Indian experiences to those in a wide range of other countries that inherited personal laws specific to religious group, sect, or ethnic group. The book shows why India’s postcolonial policy-makers changed the personal laws they inherited less than the rulers of Turkey and Tunisia, but far more than those of Algeria, Syria and Lebanon, and increased women’s rights for the most part, contrary to the trend in Pakistan, Iran, Sudan and Nigeria since the 1970s.
Subramanian demonstrates that discourses of community and features of state-society relations shape the course of personal law. Ruling elites’ discourses about the nation, its cultural groups and its traditions interact with the state-society relations that regimes inherit and the projects of regimes to change their relations with society. These interactions influence the pattern of multiculturalism, the place of religion in public policy and public life, and the forms of regulation of family life. The book shows how the greater engagement of political elites with initiatives among the Hindu majority and the predominant place they gave Hindu motifs in discourses about the nation shaped Indian multiculturalism and secularism, contrary to current understandings. In exploring the significant role of communitarian discourses in shaping state-society relations and public policy, it takes “state-in-society” approaches to comparative politics, political sociology, and legal studies in new directions.
Next month, Wiley-Blackwell will publish The Justification of Religious Violence by Steve Clarke (Charles Sturt University & University of Oxford). The publisher’s description follows.
How are justifications for religious violence developed and do they differ from secular justifications for violence? Can liberal societies tolerate potentially violent religious groups? Can those who accept religious justifications for violence be dissuaded from acting violently? Including six in-depth contemporary case studies, The Justification of Religious Violence is the first book to examine the logical structure of justifications of religious violence.
- The first book specifically devoted to examining the logical structure of justifications of religious violence
- Seeks to understand how justifications for religious violence are developed and how or if they differ from ordinary secular justifications of violence
- Examines 3 widely employed premises used in religious justifications of violence – ‘cosmic war’, the importance of the afterlife, and ‘sacred values’
- Considers to what extent liberal democratic societies should tolerate who hold that their religion justifies violent acts
- Reflects on the possibility of effective policy measures to persuade those who believe that violent action is justified by religion, to refrain from acting violently
- Informed by recent work in psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience and evolutionary biology
- Part of the Blackwell Public Philosophy Series
Next month, Ohio State University will publish Fatwas and Court Judgments: A Genre Analysis of Arabic Legal Opinion, by Ahmed Fakhri (West Virginia University). The publisher’s description follows.
Fatwas and Court Judgments: A Genre Analysis of Arabic Legal Opinion uses a genre analysis approach to investigate how Arabic legal opinion is linguistically and rhetorically constructed in two culturally significant types of texts: secular court judgments and fatwas, the Islamic edicts based on sharii’a law. Ahmed Fakhri’s analysis shows that the court judgments exhibit several Western-inspired features, particularly the complexity of syntax and the rhetorical moves utilized to construct arguments. But the fatwas maintain conventional Arabic patterns of persuasion, such as citing religious texts, relying on affective appeal, and offering moral advice. Showing how these two radically different rhetorical traditions coexist, Fatwas and Court Judgments totally re-conceptualizes Arabic legal argumentation by highlighting its diverse sources and hybridity.
The differences between the two genres stem from elements of their socio-cultural context, such as the role relations of the participants and the characteristics of the institutions to which the genres belong. Moving beyond these contexts, Fatwas and Court Judgments reveals generic practices that have broad implications for understanding various aspects of wider Arab culture, including the tension between modern secular ideologies and traditional religious beliefs, the male-dominated access to discourse, and the prevalence of utilitarian attitudes exhibited in “fatwa shopping.”
Next month, Oxford University Press will publish Islam and the Challenge of Human Rights by Abdulaziz Sachedina (George Mason University). The publisher’s description follows.
In 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the International Declaration of Human Rights, a document designed to hold both individuals and nations accountable for their treatment of fellow human beings, regardless of religious or cultural affiliations. Since then, the compatibility of Islam and human rights has emerged as a particularly thorny issue of international concern, and has been addressed by Muslim rulers, conservatives, and extremists, as well as Western analysts and policymakers; all have commonly agreed that Islamic theology and human rights cannot coexist.
Abdulaziz Sachedina rejects this informal consensus, arguing instead for the essential compatibility of Islam and human rights. He offers a balanced and incisive critique of Western experts who have ignored or underplayed the importance of religion to the development of human rights, contending that any theory of universal rights necessarily emerges out of particular cultural contexts. At the same time, he re-examines the juridical and theological traditions that form the basis of conservative Muslim objections to human rights, arguing that Islam, like any culture, is open to development and change. Finally, and most importantly, Sachedina articulates a fresh position that argues for a correspondence between Islam and secular notions of human rights.
Next month, Stanford University Press will publish Old Texts, New Practices: Islamic Reform in Modern Morocco by Etty Terem (Rhodes College). The publisher’s description follows.
In 1910, al-Mahdi al-Wazzani, a prominent Moroccan Islamic scholar completed his massive compilation of Maliki fatwas. An eleven-volume set, it is the most extensive collection of fatwas written and published in the Arab Middle East during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Al-Wazzani’s legal opinions addressed practical concerns and questions: What are the ethical and legal duties of Muslims residing under European rule? Is emigration from non-Muslim territory an absolute duty? Is it ethical for Muslim merchants to travel to Europe? Is it legal to consume European-manufactured goods? It was his expectation that these fatwas would help the Muslim community navigate the modern world.
In considering al-Wazzani’s work, this book explores the creative process of transforming Islamic law to guarantee the survival of a Muslim community in a changing world. It is the first study to treat Islamic revival and reform from discourses informed by the sociolegal concerns that shaped the daily lives of ordinary people. Etty Terem challenges conventional scholarship that presents Islamic tradition as inimical to modernity and, in so doing, provides a new framework for conceptualizing modern Islamic reform. Her innovative and insightful reorientation constructs the origins of modern Islam as firmly rooted in the messy complexity of everyday life.
Next month, Princeton University Press will publish The Jewish Jesus by Peter Schäfer (Princeton University). The publisher’s description follows.
In late antiquity, as Christianity emerged from Judaism, it was not only the new religion that was being influenced by the old. The rise and revolutionary challenge of Christianity also had a profound influence on rabbinic Judaism, which was itself just emerging and, like Christianity, trying to shape its own identity. In The Jewish Jesus, Peter Schäfer reveals the crucial ways in which various Jewish heresies, including Christianity, affected the development of rabbinic Judaism. The result is a demonstration of the deep mutual influence between the sister religions, one that calls into question hard and fast distinctions between orthodoxy and heresy, and even Judaism and Christianity, during the first centuries CE.