Prof. examines religious backlash

The following contribution was written for Y File by third-year student Omar Siddiqui, who is focusing on international law at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, and is assistant editor of the Obiter Dicta, the official student newspaper of the school:

“Professor El Obaid delivered the ‘Or ‘Emet Lecture entitled ‘9/11-The Corruption of Legal and Religious Language’. El Obaid, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Comparative Law, Faculty of Law, McGill University, traced the historical roots of the term jihad in Islamic thought and history in the context of a post 9/11 backlash against Islam and Muslims. He noted that the backlash has contributed to a culture of ideological hostility, and said that this term lies at the core of contemporary discourse with respect to Shariah.

“El Obaid emphasized that in Islam the presumption is peace – meaning that all theological, political and legal constructs operate with peace as their guiding principle. As such, he said that it is antithetical to equate jihad – which literally means struggle – to the popular idea of holy war. It is first and foremost a spiritual principle that cannot be equated with the actions of terrorism perpetuated by such groups as Al Qaeda. In this context El Obaid candidly pointed out that a declaration of war in Islam is restricted by similar if not synonymous restrictions that exist in international law such as prohibitions on aggressive military action and the taking of innocent lives.

“The lecture was an important contribution towards confronting the misconceptions about Islamic law that permeate popular culture.”

The ‘Or ‘Emet Fund was established in 1976 to promote the study of law in the broadest sense. The fund seeks to promote, through public discussion, research and scholarly writing, public and professional appreciation of the significance of religion, ethics, culture and history in the development of the legal system.

The next lecture in the series will be held on Monday, Jan. 27 with presenter Ingrid Mattson, professor of Islamic studies at the Macdonald Center for Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations, Hartford Seminary, Hartford, Connecticut. The title of her talk is “The Risks and Benefits of Resorting to ‘Necessity’ in Islamic Jurisprudence”.