altMuslimah at Islamic Law Symposium at St. Thomas University

AltMuslimah’s Asma Uddin addressed Muslim women’s right to religious freedom at St. Thomas University’s Symposium on Islamic Law and Constitutional Liberties.

The Spring 2010 Symposium of the University of St. Thomas Law Journal will explore the intersection of constitutional democracy and Islamic law. Two broad themes lie at the heart of this intersection: First, what challenges and opportunities face democracies in Muslim-majority nations as they seek to integrate Islamic law with the rights typically accorded in constitutional democracies? Second, what tensions exist between adherence to Islamic law and the norms of liberal democracies in nations with growing Muslim minorities? Within this framework, participants will discuss Islam and religious liberties; privatization of law issues, such as those being considered in Canada; and notions of patriotism, assimilation, and pluralism as they pertain to Islam. They will also explore the unique features of Islamic law and its integration into modern legal systems.

The event will feature keynote presenter Noah Feldman, Harvard Law Professor and adjunct senior fellow for the Council on Foreign Relations, and other prominent scholars including John Bowen of Washington University in St. Louis and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf of the Cordoba Institute.

Monday, April 12
8:30am – 4:30pm
University of St. Thomas School of Law
Minneapolis, Minnesota

With participation from the University of St. Thomas Muslim-Christian Dialogue Center


KEYNOTE: John Bowen

Shaykh Muhammid Amin-Evans
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf (Written Contribution)
L. Ali Khan

Faisal Kutty
Haider ala Hamoudi
Russell Powell
Clark Lombardi
Asma Uddin

OPENING REMARKS: Congressman Keith Ellison (invited)


Noah Feldman
Bemis Professor of Law
Harvard Law School
1563 Massachusetts Avenue, Hauser 210
Cambridge, MA 02138

Assistant: Ben Owen, (617)495-7719,

Scheduler: Heidi Lubov, (917) 617-1284,

Noah Feldman is the Bemis Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and an Adjunct Senior Fellow to the Council on Foreign Relations. He specializes in constitutional studies, with particular emphasis on the relationship between law and religion, constitutional design, and the history of legal theory. As an academic and public intellectual, Feldman is concerned with issues at the intersection of religion and politics, exploring the relationship between law and religion in both the Western and Middle Eastern contexts. He is an expert in Islamic constitutional thought. As the former senior constitutional adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq he helped to draft the Iraqi constitution and supports the creation of a democracy with Islamist elements.

Feldman authored the 2008 book, The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State, a meditation on the history, ideals, and revival of sharia. He predicts success for those countries which can “develop new institutions that would find their own original and distinctive way of giving real life to the ideals of Islamic law.” His previous works include After Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy, considering whether considers whether Islamic nations can also be democratic; What We Owe Iraq; and Divided by God, examining America’s religious-secular divide and the evolution of church-state relations in the United States.

Professor Feldman graduated at the top of his class at Harvard, where he received a degree in Near Eastern studies. A Rhodes scholar at Oxford, he earned a doctorate in Islamic thought. He attended Yale Law School, where he helped Prof. Owen Fiss advise Eritrea about its constitution. Before he became a law clerk for United States Supreme Court Justice David Souter, he was a law clerk for Harry Edwards on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. Professor Feldman is fluent in English, Hebrew, Arabic, and French.


John Bowen
Dunbar-Van Cleve Professor in Arts & Sciences
Sociocultural Anthropology
Washington University in St. Louis
One Brookings Drive, Campus Box 1114
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
(314) 935-5680,

TOPIC: Can an English court enforce Islamic Sharî`a?

It is probably in England that Muslims have carried out the most extensive developments of mediation and arbitration based on Islamic legal norms and practices. Islamic Shariah Councils, and at least own arbitration board, are shaping their procedures and judgments to the possibilities afforded by the legal system of England and Wales, and to their varied senses of the range of possible interpretations of Islamic law. I draw on fieldwork among Islamic councilors and among English lawyers to set out something of the current state of play, I do so by unpacking a recent appellate court case treating an Islamic marriage as carrying with it certain enforceable consequences. The judges made assumptions about the nature of Shariah law and marriage practices that are at odds with English Shariah Council practices—or at least represent a selective view of those practices. The decision raises questions about the treatment of marriage as contract and the way in which such a contract will be given legal force.

Dr. John Bowen’s current research focuses on comparative social studies of Islam across the world. His ethnographic studies take place in Indonesia, France, and England, and he works with students and colleagues with field sites across Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. In particular, Dr. Bowen analyzes how Muslims (judges and scholars, public figures, ordinary people) work across plural sources of norms and values, including diverse interpretations of the Islamic tradition, law codes and decisions, and local social norms.

Bowen’s first three books examined issues of religion, culture, and politics in Indonesia, looking outward from a long-term research site in the Gayo highlands of Aceh. He studied a century of changes in oratory, song, and historical narratives; everyday practices of (and debates about) Islam in a highland farming community; and the interpretive work of judges in Indonesian Islamic and civil courts. In his next two books Bowen looked at Islam in France: first, why non-Muslim French people supported a law against religious signs in schools; secondly, how Muslims in France create new Islamic institutions and new views on how to interpret Islam. He is now working on Shari’a Councils in England and North America. Along the way, he has written on ethnic conflict, comparative methods, schooling, and the anthropology of religion.

Dr. Bowen works with many doctoral students, engaged in a wide variety of dissertation projects, from urban youth identities in Kenya, to Islamic movements in Kyrgyzstan, to language revitalization in Wales. Together they work in a collaborative writing group that meets regularly throughout the year.

Dr. Bowen also works with colleagues in several other departments as director of the Pluralism, Politics, and Religion Initiative. Holding regular workshops on questions of religious and political pluralism, the Initiative has created a collaborative graduate training program with partner universities in Europe—as of 2009, in Paris, Utrecht, and Göttingen.


2009 Can Islam Be French? Pluralism and Pragmatism in a Secularist State. Princeton: Princeton University Press.


Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf
Chairman/Founder of the Cordoba Initiative
475 Riverside Drive, Suite 248
New York, NY 10115, USA
(212) 870-2552,

Courtney Erwin, Chief of Staff/Director of Operations (Assistant)

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is the chairman of the Cordoba Initiative, an independent, non-partisan and multi-national project that works with state and non-state actors to improve Muslim-West relations. In this capacity, he directs projects that aim to heal conflict between Islamic and Western communities by developing youth leadership, empowering women, and engaging Islamic legal scholars in addressing the implications of contemporary Islamic governance. In 1997, he founded the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA), the first Muslim organization committed to bringing American Muslims and non-Muslims together through programs in academia, policy, current affairs, and culture. As Imam of Masjid al-Farah, a mosque located twelve blocks from Ground Zero in New York City, he preaches a message of understanding between people of all creeds. Additionally, Imam Feisal sits on the Board of Trustees of the Islamic Center of New York and serves as an advisor to the Interfaith Center of New York.

Imam Feisal has appeared regularly at the Council on Foreign Relations and the World Economic Forum (Davos). He has been interviewed by and quoted in leading print media, including BBC, CNN, New York Times, Washington Post, Frontline, and Foreign Policy. His publications include the books, Islam: A Search for Meaning, Islam: A Sacred Law (What every Muslim Should Know About the Shariah), and What’s Right With Islam: A New Vision for Muslims and the West, which the Christian Science Monitor rated among its five best books of 2004; as well as articles such as “The Ideals We Share” (Newsweek, July 31, 2007) and “The End of Barbarism? The Phenomenon of Torture and the Search for the Common Good” (with Rev. Dr. William Schulz in Pursuing the Global Common Good, 2007).

Born in Kuwait and educated in England, Egypt, and Malaysia, Imam Feisal holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Columbia University in New York and a Master of Science in Plasma Physics from Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey. He speaks English, Arabic and Malay.


Shaykh Muhammid Amin-Evans
Director of Information and Inter-Religious Affairs Department, Al-Madhi Institute
532, Moseley Road,
Balsall Heath,
Birmingham, B12 9AE
United Kingdom

Muhammad Amin-Evans is Director of Information and Inter-Religious Affairs Department of the Al-Madhi Institutute, an educational institute in the United Kingdom that provides students with a structured degree course in the field of Arabic and Islamic sciences within a multi-cultural and pluralist society. The major addition and difference between the Institute and traditional colleges of Islamic studies is that there is great emphasis on the use of modern theories in the study of religion, theology, and language. The other noted addition and difference is the Institute’s use of English and Arabic as the main languages of instruction. This modified curriculum trains and prepares students to function within the Western academic tradition as participants (not spectators) in contemporary intellectual discourse.

Shaykh Evans’ areas of interest include the acceptance and application of Islamic Law within non-Islamic legal and social infrastructures; the construction and development of techniques for the non-polemic presentation of Islamic information, practice and principles to all sectors of society; and implementing Muslim involvement and advocacy at all levels of social activity.

Shaykh Evans first received his training in Diesel & Hydraulic Engineering, Risk Assessment, Trade Union History, and went on to study at al-Mahdi Institute graduating with an MA degree. He is the Editor of Al-Mahdi Journal and Al-Mahdi Newsletter, Head of Al-Mahdi Summer School, and member of the Admission Board. 
His on the Board of Trustees for the Roger Hooker Trust, serves as Vice Chairman of the Balsall Heath Forum Ltd, and is member of the Consultative Body for West Midlands Faith Forum, and Balsall Heath Inter-Faith Committee. Shaykh Evans is editor of the Shi’a Affairs Journal and Chair of the Britslam Partnership, which develops innovative strategies to promote constructive Muslim engagement


L. Ali Khan
Professor of Law, Washburn University School of Law
1700 SW College Ave.
Topeka, KS 66621
(785) 670-1671,

Support Staff: Sarah Cranganu, (785) 670-2460,

TOPIC: Infinity and Islamic Law”

Infinity is a useful concept to study the unique features of Islamic law, particularly when Islamic law is compared with the constitution-based common law in the United States. Islamic law, though founded on immutable divine texts, is nonetheless dynamic and diverse. Infinity of Islamic law illuminates the normative space that lies between permanence and evolution.

L. Ali Khan initially trained as a civil engineer. He later switched to law, obtaining a law degree from Punjab University, Lahore. In 1976, Khan immigrated to the United States and studied law at New York University School of Law where he received his LL.M. and J.S.D. Khan is a member of the New York Bar.

Khan has authored three academic books published in the prestigious series Developments in International Law. Over the years, he has written numerous law review articles on the U.S. Constitution, comparative constitutional law, legal education, human rights, international disputes, and terrorism. His academic writings are used as part of course materials in universities across the world.

Khan has devoted much of his academic scholarship to Islamic law and conflicts involving Muslim communities. Khan has participated in Islamic law symposia held at the law schools of Samford University, University of St. Thomas, Barry University, Michigan State University, and Brigham Young University—contributing ground-breaking articles on Islamic jurisprudence. In addition to law articles and academic books, Khan also writes for the popular press in the United States, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent. His legal and foreign affairs commentaries are published worldwide and international media seek his comments on world events.

Haider ala Hamoudi
Assistant Professor of Law
University of Pittsburgh Law School
3900 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
(412) 624-1055,

TOPIC: Iraq/constitutionalism

Professor Hamoudi will discuss the origin, negotiation and practical implementation of two clauses in the Iraqi constitution relating to this putative phenomenon known as “Islamic constitutionalism”. The first of these is the so-called “repugnancy clause” pursuant to which no law may be passed that contradicts the certain rulings of Islam. The other is the clause concerning the composition of the Federal Supreme Court, wherein the presence of jurists on the court is expressly contemplated. Prof. Hamoudi expects to demonstrate that, far from being some sort of broad endorsement of a notion of “Islamic constitutionalism”, in fact these clauses, both as they were ultimately agreed to and more so as they have been implemented, are of very little practical value and in fact more serve rhetorical purposes than endorse any notion of an “Islamic” constitutional state.

Professor Hamoudi received his B.Sc. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1993, with a double major in Physics and Humanities with a Near Eastern Studies Concentration. He was both a member of the Physics Honor Society, Sigma Pi Sigma, and a Burchard Scholar for Excellence in the Humanities and Social Sciences. In 1996, Professor Hamoudi received his J.D. from Columbia Law School, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar. After graduating, he served as a law clerk to the Honorable Constance Baker Motley in the Southern District of New York and then worked as an Associate at the law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton until 2003.

Haider Ala Hamoudi’s scholarship focuses on Middle Eastern and Islamic Law, particularly, but not exclusively, as it pertains to matters of commerce. He has called for a reassessment of the manner in which law in the Muslim world is understood and approached, with less reliance on medieval texts and more emphasis on the positive law of the nation states of the Muslim world and on the political, social, economic and ideological influences that influence its interpretation. He has written for numerous law reviews, spoken at conferences sponsored by the MacMillan Center at Yale University, the American Association of Law Schools and the New York City Bar Association, and given interviews to various news organizations including The New York Times,,, the McNeil-Lehrer News Hour Online and the New York Law Journal. In 2009, Professor Hamoudi was awarded the Hessel Yntema prize, awarded by the American Society of Comparative Law for the best article produced in the American Journal of Comparative Law the previous year by an author under the age of 40.

Professor Hamoudi is currently spending his time in Baghdad advising the Constitutional Review Committee of the Iraqi legislature, responsible for developing critical amendments to the Iraq Constitution deemed necessary for Iraqi national reconciliation, on behalf of the United States Embassy in Baghdad. He is also advising on other key pieces of legislation, including a hydrocarbons law, a revenue management law, and an antitrust law. In 2003 and 2004, Professor Hamoudi served as a legal advisor to the Finance Committee of the Iraq Governing Council, as well as a Program Manager for a project managed by the International Human Rights Law Institute of DePaul University School of Law to improve legal education in Iraq.

Professor Hamoudi is also the author of a blog on Islamic Law entitled Islamic Law in Our Times.

Faisal Kutty
Assistant Professor of Law
Valparaiso University School of Law
656 S. Greenwich St.
Valparaiso, Indiana 46383-4945

TOPIC: “The Myth of Shari’a Courts in Canada: Multiculturalism, Gender, Religion, the Limits of Accommodation, Legal Pluralism and a Delayed Opportunity for the Indigenization of Islamic Law Rulings”

The faith-based arbitration controversy in Ontario brought to the fore tensions that had been raging silently in liberal democracies for some time. Interestingly, the Ontario government’s passage of the Family Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005 ostensibly precluding the enforcement of faith-based family law decisions pursuant to the Arbitrations Act, 1991, served only to fuel the debate.

Those opposed to allowing the use of religious principles in resolving family disputes using the Arbitrations Act, 1991, raised some legitimate concerns about gender rights within religious communities. They questioned the role of religion in secular society and also opposed what they saw as privatization of the legal system. Proponents contended that religious groups should be able to govern their lives according to their conscience within the parameters of law if the constitutional right to freedom of religion and association is to have any real value. Consenting and informed adults must be able to make religious choices even if others do not believe these are “correct” choices, they argued.

The issues, of course, transcend dispute resolution and tug at fundamental tensions surrounding multiculturalism and national identity, the separation of church and state, the limits of accommodation and legal pluralism within a liberal democracy. These in turn raise a number of questions, including two that I attempt to grapple with in this paper. Firstly, how does a liberal democracy balance the collective rights of a group with the individual rights of group members – particularly the vulnerable, women and children (the minorities within minorities problem). Secondly, why must liberal democracies accommodate minorities particularly when those minorities may not share liberal values.

This article will argue that Ontario lost a timely opportunity to devise a way to balance the competing rights and interests in a manner that could have respected all parties and protected the vulnerable. The article will show how the issue was a prime case to test whether Islamic law and liberal democracy can co-exist within a liberal constitutional framework. The article will also argue that Ontario also delayed an opportunity to indigenize or Canadianize Islamic law rulings in a manner that would help in the integration process of its Muslim citizens and in the process contribute to the evolution of Islamic law.

Faisal practices in a broad range of areas including non-profit/charity law, Islamic finance, civil litigation, human rights and alternative dispute resolution. He has advised and acted for a number of the leading Islamic Finance companies and charities in Canada. He has also acted on behalf of individuals and institutions caught up in anti-terrorism investigations.

Faisal is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Valparaiso University School of Law, Valparaiso, Indiana and an adjunct professor of comparative law at Osgoode Hall Law School.

Faisal studied economics (Dean’s Honour Roll) at York University and completed his LL.B. (cum laude) from the University of Ottawa. He also holds an LL.M. from Osgoode Hall Law School of York University in Civil Litigation and Dispute Resolution. Faisal served terms as the articles editor and the book reviews editor of the Ottawa Law Review. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School. His dissertation examines the impact of anti-terrorism legislation and policies on the rule of law. He is also currently completing his Diploma in Islamic Banking from the International Institute of Islamic Banking and Insurance (London, U.K.).

Clark Lombardi
Associate Professor of Law
University of Washington School of Law
Box 353020
Seattle, WA 98195-3020
(206) 543-4939,


Assuming Islamization of a legal system can take place alongside the liberalization of a legal system, is Islamization is ever necessary for liberalization to take place? Professor Lombardi will focus on the writings of Alvin Robert Cornelius, an eminent liberal, Anglophilic and, intriguingly, practicing Christian Justice who served as a Justice and ultimately Chief Justice of the Pakistani Supreme Court during the 1950s and 60s. This was a period when Pakistan’s attempt to build a liberal constitutional democratic system began to falter. Cornelius did believe that Islam was compatible with liberal constutionalism. He shocked many of his colleagues in the post-colonial judicial elite by arguing that Pakistan would never be able to build a successful, liberal constitutional system unless it thoughtfully, but completely, Islamized its legal system. Subsequent judicial developments in Pakistan and several other countries suggest that other judges seem to share Cornelius’s intuition.

Professor Lombard is a specialist in Islamic law and in constitutional law. He teaches in these areas and also teaches courses in federalism, comparative law, and development law. Professor Lombardi’s current research and writing have focused on the evolution of Islamic law in contemporary legal systems. He also focuses on comparative judicial institutions and on the way that constitutional systems deal with religious organizations and religious law.

Professor Lombardi has a Ph.D. in Religion from Columbia University where he focused on Islamic law. At Columbia Law School in 1998 he was a James Kent Scholar and editor-in-chief of the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law. From 1999-2000, he clerked for Judge Samuel A. Alito, then on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. He practiced law with the firm of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton in New York City, where he specialized in representing sovereigns and in complex transnational commercial matters, often with sovereign participation.

Professor Lombardi has lived, worked or studied in Indonesia, Yemen, Egypt, and Afghanistan. He has taught courses on Islamic law at Columbia Law School and the NYU Department of Middle East Studies. He has spoken at the Council on Foreign Relations and numerous academic forums. He has been involved in projects advising on constitutional or legal reform in the Muslim world, including Iraq and Afghanistan. In recognition of his work, he was named a Carnegie Scholar for 2006-08, which allowed him to expand his research into Islamic law and constitutionalism in the modern world.

Russell Powell,
Assistant Professor of Law
Seattle University School of Law
Sullivan Hall 416
901 12th Ave.
Seattle, WA 98122

(206) 398.4198,

TOPIC: Islamic Law in Modern Turkey

Professor Powell was an Associate with Coudert Brothers from 1996-1998 and an Associate at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati before teaching at the University of Jordan and at Loyola University Chicago. He taught as a Visiting Professor of Law at Santa Clara University School of Law from 2003-2005. His areas of expertise are business law (especially corporate law), jurisprudence (with particular interests in Catholic social thought and Islamic legal theory), and comparative law. Professor Powell reads and speaks a number of languages including Turkish and Farsi.

Asma Uddin
International Legal Fellow
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty


Asma T. Uddin is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of She is also an attorney, with several years of experience practicing commercial litigation at prestigious national law firms. Currently, she works on international religious freedom matters with The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a non-profit, non-partisan, public interest law firm based in Washington, D.C.

As an editor, Asma has worked with Dr. Umar F. Abd-Allah on a number of articles for scholarly journals on Islamic Law. She also helped edit the entire manuscript of Dr. Abd-Allah’s A Muslim in Victorian America, which was published in 2007 by Oxford University Press. As Associate Editor and legal columnist for Islamica Magazine, Asma focused her writings on how American Muslims can rethink their social position within the American legal framework.

Asma’s writing has appeared in Muslim Girl Magazine, altmuslim, beliefnet, and in the Guardian’s Comment is Free. She is also an expert panelist for the Washington Post/Newsweek blog, On Faith. Her more scholarly work has been published in the Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion and The Review of Faith & International Affairs. Asma, selected in 2009 as a “Muslim Leader of Tomorrow”, has traveled throughout Europe and to various Muslim countries to meet with Muslim and other minority groups as well as politicians, journalists, and anti-discrimination organizations.

Asma is a 2005 graduate of The University of Chicago Law School, where she was a member The University of Chicago Law Review.

8:00 a.m. Registration and Continental Breakfast
8:30 – 9:10 a.m. Welcome & Introductory Remarks
Bryce Young, Editor-in-Chief
University of St. Thomas Law Journal
Opening Remarks: Congressman Keith Ellison

9:10 – 10:05 a.m. Opening Keynote: John Bowen, Washington University in St. Louis

10:05 – 10:20 a.m. Break

10:20 – 11:15 a.m. Panel presentation
Faisal Kutty, Visiting Assistant Professor of Law, Valparaiso University School of Law
Joel Nichols, Professor of Law, University of St. Thomas School of Law
Asma Uddin, International Legal Fellow, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

11:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Plenary presentation: Shaykh Muhammid Amin-Evans, Al-Madhi Institute

Lunch is served

Reflection time, a tradition at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, will be observed at 1:15 to accommodate Muslim prayer time.

12:15 – 1:15 p.m. Keynote: Distinguished Visitor Noah Feldman

1:15 – 1:35 p.m.

Reflection time
This is a tradition at the University of St. Thomas School of Law. Please take this time to rest, reflect, and pray.

1:35 – 2:35 p.m. Panel presentation
Haider ala Hamoudi, Assistant Professor of Law, University of Pittsburgh Law School
Clark Lombardi, Associate Professor of Law, University of Washington School of Law
Russell Powell, Assistant Professor of Law, Seattle University School of Law

2:35 – 3:30 p.m. Plenary presentation: L. Ali Khan, Washburn University School of Law

3:30 p.m. Closing Remarks
Robert Kahn, Assistant Professor of Law
University of St. Thomas School of Law
(Source: Faisal Kutty)

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