What do Pakistan's Swat Valley and Harvard University have in common?
Their leading Islamic authorities uphold the Shariah (Islamic law) tradition of punishing those who leave Islam with death.
There are differences, of course. For one thing, Shariah actually rules the Swat Valley, while Shariah's traditions, as promulgated by Harvard Muslim chaplain Taha Abdul-Basser, retain a more or less theoretical caste. In a recently publicized e-mail, for example, Mr. Abdul-Basser approvingly explained to a student the traditional Islamic practice of executing converts from Islam.
As the chaplain put it: "There is great wisdom (hikma) associated with the established and preserved position (capital punishment), and so, even if it makes some uncomfortable in the face of the hegemonic modern human-rights discourse, one should not dismiss it out of hand."