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On September 8th, 2015, Yale University announced it had received a sizable grant of $10 million to fund an Islamic Law Center. Yale university stated:
Yale University President Peter Salovey and Yale Law School Dean Robert C. Post announced today a $10 million gift to create the Abdallah S. Kamel Center for the Study of Islamic Law and Civilization at Yale Law School.
This generous gift is from Abdallah S. Kamel, chief executive of the Dallah Albaraka Group, LLC, a banking and real estate enterprise based in Saudi Arabia.
Abdallah S. Kamel is the son of wealthy philanthropist Saleh Kamel, a pioneering businessman who has been referred to as the "Father of Contemporary Islamic Finance" and is also the founder of television network ART TV.
"The creation of this center reflects the growing interest at Yale and other academic institutions in a deeper understanding of Islamic law, history, and culture," said Yale's Dean Post.
"Islamic law has a long and proud tradition, which encompasses great intellectual achievements," Post continued. "It is also a subject of immense contemporary importance. There is a tremendous need for an interdisciplinary center to support scholarship in the field. The Abdallah S. Kamel Center meets this need."
Reception to the center being founded was mixed. Hollywood actor and conservative pundit James Woods said . . .
Author of American Betrayal Diana West was also non-enthusiastic . . .
Pamela Gellar also let her feelings known in an article . . .
While many merely noted that the founding of the Islamic Law Center happened . . .
The grant is not the first of its kind in the United States. The AP notes one reason for the Yale University grant: the Harvard Islamic studies program has not been as well-funded and prominent as advocates have desired:
For two decades, Harvard Law School has had its own Islamic legal studies program, established with support from the Saudi king.
Abdullahi An-Na'im, who teaches Islamic law at Emory Law School, said he considers the Islamic legal studies program at Harvard a disappointment because few faculty members took an interest and it has been treated as an isolated entity at the law school. He said it remains to be seen how seriously the Yale faculty will take Islamic law as a field of human jurisprudence.
Kronman said Yale aims to have the best program of its kind in the United States, if not the world, and one objective is to ensure the center's work is integrated into the life of the law school.
Thus, one objective is not for the Islamic law center to be an independent area for specialization in sharia, but to become enmeshed in the legal culture of a top university. When it comes to its coverage of the nature of "Islamic law" or sharia, the Associated Press was sparse:
Islamic law, or Shariah, carries weight in the legal code of most Muslim countries. Movements to expand its influence, including in areas of the West, have been controversial in part because some interpretations have been used to justify intolerance and harsh punishments.
That's one way to put it. Another way to put it is that Islamic believers around the world have established numerous societies that run antithetical to the classical and modern liberal traditions of Western Civilization. This presents unique challenges for the West.
One reason why interpreting the legitimacy of Islamic studies institutions in Western educational systems is the role of education in the culture: Is it an agency for subversion or enlightenment?
Harvard's legal studies resource SHARIAsource is headed by a woman,Intisar A. Rabb. Her research, such as addressing "Doubt in Islamic Law," appears to be oriented towards fostering "internal critique" in the religion. In 2015 alone, the institute she heads was funded to the tune of$400,000 by the Henry Luce Foundation.
A 2013 Pew Research study on Muslim attitudes delves into believers' views on sharia in various regions of the world.
It reports, for just one example, that significant percentages of Muslims in regions surveyed: favor religious judges for family law (bringing up the issues of women's rights and "honor killings"); severe corporal punishments for criminals (think amputating limbs for theft; executions for homosexuality); and killing those who leave Islam (execution of apostates).
The majority of Muslims in the United States tend to be far more enlightened. However, one in five surveyed by Pew Research believe suicide bombings can be justified when carried out in the defense of Islam.
The founding of the Islamic Law Center at Yale University comes at a time when many Americans are alarmed about an influx of Syrian immigrants coming to the U.S. due to President Obama's increase in taking in war refugees by 10,000.
Secretary of State John Kerry said that the number of refugees in the United States could rise to more than 100,000 from its current level of 70,000.
Education can be used to increase understanding and dialogue between different cultures; but its also vital that people do not mistake tolerance of other cultures for compromising values such as respect for individual freedom, women's rights, and acceptance of personal differences.
An excellent resource for pondering the impact of Islamic culture on Western Civilization (and vice versa) is the debate over whether or not "Islam is a religion of peace."