An Inclusive Litany

12/6/01

From an otherwise enlightening interview by The American Lawyer's Douglas McCollum with UCLA law professor Khaled Abou el Fadl, a leading expert on Islamic law, December 6, 2001:
Q: What was [Osama bin Laden's] training?

A: He took courses in Islamic law in the school in Medina, though he didn't complete training. He was instructed only in positive law. All the courses that deal with the purposes or objects of law, all the courses about equity in law, none of that is taught anymore. It's contrary to the fundamentalists' insistence on textual literalism. That is the standard. Anything not in the text is illegitimate. Of course, in a literalist paradigm all you end up doing is projecting your own prejudice on to the text.

Q: Kind of like when you read Scalia.

A: Exactly! (laughs) In fact, if you look at Scalia his jurisprudence is remarkably myopic. It's very much like the jurisprudence that comes out of this literalist Islamic school.

[Ed.: In the same interview, he notes that Islamic law is highly decentralized, which makes the comparison with American constitutional law somewhat less compelling.]

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