Christian televangelist and 1955 Yale Law School graduate Pat Robertson said he was shocked when the school sent out a mailing asking him to read the Quran as a respectable “law book.”
“The 700 Club” host told viewers Monday he recently received a booklet from Yale entitled “Reading the Quran as a Law Book.” The document was written after Joseph Lowry, an associate professor from the University of Pennsylvania, gave a lecture at the school Aug. 25.
“This follows Yale’s decision to create a Center for Islamic Law and Civilization after a Saudi businessman gave a $10 million donation to the law school,” Robertson said. “The dean says, and I quote, ‘Islamic law has a long and proud tradition, which encompasses great intellectual achievements.’ He’s got to be kidding! This is Yale Law School. They’re in the tank to the Saudis!”
Robert Post is a dean and professor at Yale Law School.
Lowry’s presentation suggested Muslims have much more leeway to interpret the Quran than non-Muslims understand.
“The Quran encourages frequent and open-ended reflection [of good works], in addition to promulgating specific rules, adherence to which is a necessary condition for salvation,” Lowry said during his lecture. This fact, that the Quran seems to promote the idea that there is generally ethical behavior, means we cannot say that the Quran is hyper-legislative and uninterested in broader conceptions of ethics. Indeed, the general character of what we might call ‘good works clauses’ leads a lot of scope for ethical speculation.”
Dani Sleiman, an expert in Islamic law who watched almost two hours of Lowry’s analysis of the Quran, disagreed.
“The Quran is the solid ground, the foundation upon which every Muslim follows,” Sleiman told Robertson. “There is no such thing as figuratively or optional. They have to follow the commandments of the Quran, so I’m really not sure what he’s basing it on. I read his book and most of his descriptions were of suggestions. He’s using terms like ‘suggested’ and ‘great unknown’ and ‘no real evidence’ and ‘assume.’ He’s trying to draw a theory. He’s trying to somehow dig out of it a way to show that the Quran has some peaceful verses.”
Robertson asked Sleiman how Lowry would explain Shariah law, which “has to do with the subjugation of women. It has to do with a husband having the privilege of beating his wife. It has to do with beheadings.”
Sleiman said it appeared as though Yale was dangerously attempting to give Islam a spiritual makeover.
“The Quran is basically a commandment. It’s the law. It’s principles and [Muslims’] understand that Allah wants every single [person] to follow these words. When Yale tries to basically endorse or apply the laws, then there will be no separation between the state and Islam.”
Joseph Lowry, associate professor, University of Pennsylvania (Photo: Yale Law School screenshot, ‘Reading the Quran as Lawbook’)