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Islamic scholars join Faculty of Law

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September 12, 2005

Source: University of Toronto:

Islamic scholars join Faculty of Law

Students to gain both liberal and practical perspectives on the ancient legal system
Sep 12/05
by Suelan Toye

Michael Kotryly may not know it but he and 10 other law students are part of a historical moment at the Faculty of Law. This fall, they are taking the first Islamic law course ever offered by the law school, taught by one of U of T’s two new full-time Islamic law scholars.

Professors Anver Emon and Mohammad Fadel are joining the faculty to teach courses on one of the world’s most ancient legal systems. “What’s most telling about these appointments is that they reflect what I think is a long-standing tradition of the faculty, which is a pluralistic, scholarly, interdisciplinary approach to law,” said Professor Brian Langille, interim dean.

Emon, whose areas of research expertise include medieval Islamic legal history, will teach a small group of third-year students. “The idea is to show students
how this 1,400-year history of Islamic law has gone through various stages of development and diminution, but at the same time in the modern day, it’s still very much a live topic for many,” he said.

For proof, look no further than the media, where the use of sharia law in Ontario’s arbitration system and Islamic fundamentalism were front and centre this year. Emon aims to cover both in his course. “When you see the debates on both sides of the arbitration dispute or anything having to do with Islamic law or the Middle East, so little is known about the [Islamic] tradition except for stereotypical rules taken in isolation,” Emon said. “We’re missing a real opportunity to learn, understand and communicate better with our global neighbours.”

Fadel, who currently works at a New York City law firm and will join the faculty in January, said studying Islamic law will enable students to gain both liberal and practical perspectives on the ancient legal system. “From a general liberal perspective, we’re trying to understand human society and Islamic law is a very important part of human civilization so it’s natural for this course to be in a law school,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s also important in the world of business contracts and finance, especially as more Islamic investors request Islamic-compliant contracts.”

Kotryly, a third-year law student, applauds the school’s move to offer courses in Islamic law. “The law program has never been about learning what the law is. It’s been about methods of thinking, methods of analysis. This is going to make that analysis a little richer.”



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