The Center for Near Eastern Studies (CNES) at the University of California, Los Angeles and the UCLA School of Law's Journal for Islamic and Near Eastern Law co-sponsored a lecture (podcast available here) last month by Khaled Abou El Fadl, chair of the Islamic Studies Interdepartmental Program, with the vague title "Shari'ah Watch: A View from the Inside."
The flyer for the lecture promised "an informed discussion about Shariah and its role and impact in the West," yet Abou El Fadl delivered neither. Instead, his audience of 35 -- comprising mostly seniors and left-wing students -- witnessed a meandering, repetitive lecture that had little or nothing to do with the stated premise. Indeed, despite acknowledging the growth of Westerners' interest in Shariah in the wake of 9/11, Abou El Fadl expressed surprise that an intelligent person would find it a remotely interesting topic: "It's exciting for me, but it's rarely exciting for people who do not relish medieval legal discourses ... to say the least it's a rather odd position to suddenly find Shariah jumping into public discourses in the West."
What is odd is why more Middle East studies professors don't relish the opportunity to condemn the medieval practices sanctioned by Shariah -- stonings, beheadings, honor killings, and execution for apostasy, for starters.