Posts Tagged ‘law’

Difference and Representation

In Michael Cook’s Forbidding the Wrong in Islam—an abridged version of his Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in Islamic Thought— a striking difference of opinion amongst Muslim jurists is shown in the picture he paints of “the duty”—to forbid wrong. One sees differences amongst jurists about the legality of certain musical instruments; some jurists forbade all instruments while others allowed for the use of some in certain circumstances.  On a much more problematic level there is a wide variety of opinions on the issue of taking up arms in order to enjoin good and forbid evil; some scholars reserved the right of the use of the sword and force to forbid wrong for the state only while others held that individuals can choose to use force without any recourse to any social or political authority or consensus. The implications here are immense: How does a Muslim society run itself if the people take a variety of juristic opinions with the assumption that these are all “legitimate”?

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06 2011

The Loaded Gun: Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project

United States Supreme Court historian Professor Lucas Powe once noted that the decisions of the Court often echo the wishes of our nation’s elite. Powe opined that the Court had emerged as a part of the ruling regime, doing its best to implement the regime’s policies. On June 21, 2010, the Court did just that when they produced their decision in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project. The opinion sheds light on the direction the Court, and the regime it represents, is headed. As one plaintiff noted, the decision marked a “dark day in the history of the human rights struggle to assist groups overseas that are being oppressed.”

To put this case in context, it is a federal crime to “knowingly provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.” This “material support or resources” constitutes the obvious: money, weapons, etc., but also includes vague forms of support such as “training” and “expert advice or assistance.” Two U.S. citizens and six U.S. organizations, as the plaintiffs, challenged these vague forms of support on Fifth Amendment due process grounds, and alternatively on the grounds that the statute violates their freedom of speech and freedom of association under the First Amendment. For American Muslims, a victory for the plaintiffs would have been significant, seeing as how the material support statute has chilled a great deal of humanitarian aid to the Muslim world. (Note: For my thoughts on the foreign terrorist organization designation process please visit:

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07 2010