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Teach Enlightened Islamic law – says legal expert

Progressive Islamic law should be studied widely in order to promote peace and greater multicultural understanding - a legal expert has said today.

Professor Shaheen Ali of the University of Warwick spoke today at a London briefing of lawyers, diplomats and leading members of the Muslim community.

She said: "A lot of things are happening in the world, affecting all of our lives, which come from misunderstandings about Islamic law - Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

"For instance, people are surprised when they learn how progressive Islamic law is regarding the status of women, and people don't realise that the word 'Jihad' refers to a spiritual struggle first, and a physical struggle very much last."

Professor Ali has taught Islamic law for 29 years in universities including the Universities of Peshawar (Pakistan), Warwick (United Kingdom), Oslo (Norway) and the Washington University in St. Louis, (USA). She currently lectures at the University of Warwick, teaching a 10-week course attended by students from all over the world.

Professor Ali added: "In recent years, Islamic law has evoked a lot of interest, both academically as well as in the present global political arena. The teaching of Islamic law is therefore a challenging initiative to undertake, as the teaching of Islamic law, including curriculum development and pedagogy is a political act."

Existing courses of Islamic law are largely confined to Islamic family law and the Sunni Hanafi school of thought. Other sects (Shia) and sub-sects of Islamic thought are only briefly touched upon despite the fact that South-east Asian countries including Malaysia and Indonesia follow the Shafei school, whereas some North African Muslim countries follow the Maliki school of thought (Morocco, Mauritania), Iran (Shia school of thought).

A vast body of literature including legislation and case law from these jurisdictions remains invisible - so there is a need talk about Islamic legal thought on such issues as human rights, international law, social welfare law, environmental law, contemporary state practice, to name a few.

"People forget that the word 'Islam' means peace," says Professor Ali. "It saddens me greatly when I see Islam used as a pretext for violence. There is no clergy in Islam and so intellectual discussions of the law often become clouded- a more enlightened approach will help combat extremism by showing everyone what our faith really means."

In today's briefing Professor Ali highlighted the need to develop courses teaching Islamic Law. She has witnessed a growing demand for such courses from lawyers, policy makers, legislators and social scientists.


Professor Shaheen Ali will be delivering a University of Warwick Policy Briefing at 11am on Wednesday 24th May 2006 at the

The University of Warwick in London
The Work Foundation
3 Carlton House Terrace

For further information contact: Richard Fern, Press Officer,
Communications Office, University House
University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 8UW
REF PR 32 RWF 24 May 2006 024 7657 4255 email: