Khaled Abou el Fadl is a professor at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA), where he holds the post of Omar and Azmeralda Alfi Professor of Law. Born in Kuwait in 1963 and brought up in Egypt and Kuwait, he has been at UCLA's law faculty since 1998, where he teaches Islamic law, Immigration, Human Rights, International and National Security Law.
He came to America in 1982, after being imprisoned in the Middle East for writing tracts advocating democracy. He has argued that women should be able to lead prayers, and has lectured throughout the Muslim world.
He holds a Ph.D in Islamic Studies from Princeton, and is regarded as the United States' leading authority on Islamic jurisprudence. He is the author of seven books and more than 50 articles on Islam and Islamic law. In some ways, he is considered as a moderate, as he opposes the strict interpretations of Islam as practised by the Wahhabis and Salafists of Saudi Arabia. He claims Wahhabism denigrates women and others, and paved the way for the ideologues of violence such as Osama bin Laden. But in other ways, his critics, such as Daniel Pipes and also Andrew G. Bostom point to more traditional and hardline aspects of his beliefs. He is an ardent supporter of the Saudi-funded Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and still believes that Muslims should be under Sharia law.
It is his interpretation of sharia law, and that other bone of contention - "jihad" that have made some people call him a moderate. In an interview with Qantara he states that suicide bombers are percerting the original concept of "jihad", which he maintains means "struggle" and not "Holy War". He said: "The concept of Jihad is very much different to today's suicide bombings. Jihad also differs from the holy war in the Crusade period, which developed from the doctrine of self-purification through bloodsheds. In the idea of holy war, murder is regarded as a mechanism to approach God and war is regarded as sacred. Hence, any cruelty in war will not be seen as a form of barbarism."
The reason why he appears on Western Resistance is because of the recent claims made in the LA Times, and which are commented upon in the Pakistan Daily Times and also by his critic Daniel Pipes. These claims are that Professor el Fadl is being threatened with death.
Since he first openly denounced the beliefs of Wahhabism, which is the hardline theology followed by the House of Saud in Saudi Arabia which was founded by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab in the 18th century, he has claimed that he has had many death threats made against him.
In the LA Times article, which was printed on Sunday, August 27, el Fadl claims that in April, as he was standing by the living room door at his California home, a bullet shot past him, and became lodged in a book.
This month, in the newspaper Al-Watan and in other Arabic language media, stories were printed about a "solicitation of murder" with el Fadl as the target. Apparently, his latest supporters of assassination are the Iranians, on account of his support for the Israeli strike against southern Lebanon after Hizbollah captured two soldiers. These Iranian sources apparently claim that el Fadl had advised George W. Bush to support Israel's actions.
He now claims that this news report is a "total fabrication", and claims never to have met President Bush, nor to have supported Israel's actions, which he now condemns.
Recently, el Fadl has been visited by members of the University of California police and the FBI's joint terrorism task force, to warn him to increase his security measures following these reports.
Even the LA Times casts some doubt on a claim by el Fadl that the story of the recent Iran-originated death threat led to requests from at least 20 journalists from Middle Eastern media outlets. A search by MEMRI found only the Al Watan report had carried mention of the threat, earlier this month.
El Fadl states: "I've received so many death threats, and I've never had an impending sense of doom. This time, we're taking it more seriously." He does not know who is behind the threats, but says: "If they scare me into silence, they will have succeeded. I'm not going to give them that victory."
Daniel Pipes is very cynical of the recent announcements of this campaign against him. As Al-Watan is a small publication outlet, based in Anaheim, then Pipes wonders why el Fadl should then further broadcast the threat in the far larger circulation Los Angeles Times.
Dr Pipes argues that the reason could be that el Fadl is an erratic individual, or that el Fadl is "a self-promoter and shameless publicity hound who exploits any opportunity to get his name in the paper, even at the expense of his reputation and security."
In February last year, Daniel Pipes argued that far from condemning Wahhabism, el Fadl has acted as an apologist for the puritanical creed. El Fadl has argued that Wahhabist literature found in American mosques should not be banned.
There are some questions about where el Fadl really stands on anything he promotes. Looking into some of his statements in the Qantara interview, he at first glance seems a moderate, but a second reading shows this not to be the case. In another article by Dr Pipes, el Fadl has some "New Islamist" doctrines, which denounce Wahhabism but are puritanical and extreme in their own way. According to Pipes: "Sheikh Muhammad al-Ghazali (1917-96)), a leading New Islamist, remains one of Abou El Fadl's chief intellectual influences."
In his latest book "The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists" (Harper, San Francisco, 2005) el Fadl calls for a "counter-jihad" of moderate Muslims against austere and puritanical Islam. You can read our review by Xingzhe HERE. Whether he means it as we would perceive it to mean, or means something else entirely, is something only el Fadl would know.