Levy-Rubin on Dhimmi Restrictions

Here’s an interesting post about an essay, written by Hebrew University Professor Milka Levy-Rubin, in a recent book from the University of Pennsylvania Press, Beyond Religious Borders: Interaction and Intellectual Exchange in the Medieval Islamic World (2011). Levy-Rubin’s essay, “Shurut Umar: From Early Harbingers to Systematic Enforcement,” discusses the development of classical Islamic law restrictions on “protected” peoples, or dhimmis, including Christians and Jews. She asserts that these restrictions, which date from the notional seventh-century “Pact of Umar,” were more or less uniform throughout the Muslim world, not idiosyncratic or haphazard, although enforcement of the restrictions may have varied. The rules included prohibitions on crosses, churches, processions, and certain kinds of dress, as well as payment of the jizya, or poll tax. The essay looks worthwhile for anyone interested in the history of fiqh restrictions on religious minorities.

CLR Co-Hosts Briefing With UN’s Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief

In New York yesterday, CLR co-hosted a lunch briefing with Professor Heiner Beielefeldt (left), the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief. Beielefeldt was in New York to present his annual report, “Elimination of All Forms of Religious Intolerance,” to the UN’s General Assembly. (I attended the General Assembly meeting as well; I’ll write more about that in a subsequent post).

Beilefeldt’s report focuses on the right of conversion as an essential component of the freedom of religion or belief. Although international human rights law grants a right to change one’s religion, the right has proved controversial in practice, especially, though not exclusively, in Muslim-majority countries, which often criminalize apostasy from Islam. In his briefing, Beilefeldt explained that his report identifies four versions of the right of conversion, all of which merit protection:  (1) the right to change one’s religion; (2) the right not to Read more

Kuran, “The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East”

This November, Princeton University Press will publish The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East by Timur Kuran (Duke University). The publisher’s description follows.

In the year 1000, the economy of the Middle East was at least as advanced as that of Europe. But by 1800, the region had fallen dramatically behind–in living standards, technology, and economic institutions. In short, the Middle East had failed to modernize economically as the West surged ahead. What caused this long divergence? And why does the Middle East remain drastically underdeveloped compared to the West? In The Long Divergence, one of the world’s leading experts on Islamic economic institutions and the economy of the Middle East provides a new answer to these long-debated questions.

Timur Kuran argues that what slowed the economic development of the Middle East was not colonialism or geography, still less Muslim attitudes or some incompatibility between Islam and capitalism. Rather, starting around the tenth century, Islamic legal institutions, which had benefitted the Middle Eastern economy in the early centuries of Islam, began to act as a drag on development by slowing or blocking the emergence of central features of modern economic life–including private capital accumulation, corporations, large-scale production, and impersonal exchange. By the nineteenth century, modern economic institutions began to be transplanted to the Middle East, but its economy has not caught up. And there is no quick fix today. Low trust, rampant corruption, and weak civil societies–all characteristic of the region’s economies today and all legacies of its economic history–will take generations to overcome.

The Long Divergence opens up a frank and honest debate on a crucial issue that even some of the most ardent secularists in the Muslim world have hesitated to discuss.

Cook, Haider, Rabb, & Sayeed, “Law and Tradition in Classical Islamic Though: Studies in Honor of Professor Hossein Modarressi”

This January, Plagrave Macmillan Publishing will publish Law and Tradition in Classical Islamic Though: Studies in Honor of Professor Hossein Modarressi edited by Michael Cook (Princeton University), Najam Haider (Barnard College), Intisar Rabb (New York University School of Law), and Asma Sayeed (University of California, Los Angeles). The publisher’s description follows.

This collection brings together the work of some of the most prominent legal scholars and historians of Islam. The assembled articles cover a wide range of issues from debates over the Qur’anic text and issues of law to vibrant intellectual exchanges in philosophy and history. Taken together, these articles develop key inquiries surrounding Islamic law and tradition in unique ways. They also exemplify a critical development in the field of Islamic Studies over the last few decades: the proliferation of methodological approaches that employ a broad variety of sources to analyze social and political developments in classical Islam.

Vischer Named Dean at St. Thomas

Good news from Minnesota: our friend and former St. John’s faculty member Rob Vischer will be the next dean of University of St. Thomas School of Law. Rob will take over from interim dean Neil Hamilton on January 1. Rob is one of the nation’s leading law and religion scholars, having written an important recent book on conscience protections (the subject of a symposium in the Journal of Catholic Legal Studies), and a new book on Martin Luther King to be released next month. Congrats, Rob — and Congrats, St. Thomas!

Marshall, “Global Institutions of Religion: Ancient Movers, Modern Shakers”

In February, Routledge will publish Global Institutions of Religion: Ancient Movers, Modern Shakers by Katherine Marshall (Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown U). The publisher’s description follows.

This work fills a significant gap in the current literature by providing a concise introduction to religious institutions and an insightful analysis of their role in world affairs. Focusing on formal institutions specifically dedicated to governing religious communities, the work examines the intersections between religious and other global institutions, set against the fundamental question: why and how do these intersections matter?

The work explores the role of religion within key issues including: Human rights, Human security, International development and humanitarian relief, Climate change, Moral responsibilities.

The new forms that religious institutions are taking, their fit with human rights and democratic ideals, their changing nature in plural societies, are a highly relevant part of the global institutional picture and this book is essential reading for all students and scholars of global institutions, international relations and religion.

Samuel, “The OIC, the UN, and Counter-Terrorism Law-Making: Conflicting or Cooperative Legal Norms?”

Next August, Hart Publishing will publish The OIC, the UN, and Counter-Terrorism Law-Making: Conflicting or Cooperating Legal Norms? by Katja Samuel (barrister, UK). The publisher’s description follows.

The increasingly transnational nature of terrorist activities compels the international community to strengthen the legal framework in which counter-terrorist activities should occur, including at the intergovernmental level.

This unique, timely, and carefully researched monograph examines one such important intergovernmental organisation, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (‘OIC’, formerly the Organisation of the Islamic Conference). In particular, it analyses in depth its institutional counter-terrorist law-making practice, and the relationship between resultant OIC law and comparable UN norms. Furthermore, it explores two common (mis)assumptions regarding the OIC, namely whether its internal institutional weaknesses mean that its law-making practice is inconsequential at the intergovernmental level, and whether its self-declared Islamic objectives and nature are reflected within OIC law.

Where significant normative tensions are discerned between OIC and UN law – for example, the definitional impasse posed by the OIC in relation to the ongoing negotiations of the draft UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism – the monograph explores not only whether these may be explicable, at least in part, to the OIC’s Islamic nature, but also whether their corresponding institutional legal orders are conflicting or cooperative in nature, and the resultant implications for the international counter-terrorist framework.

This monograph is expected to appeal especially to national and intergovernmental counter-terrorist practitioners and policy-makers, and to all scholars interested in the interaction of Islamic norms within the wider international political system.