By Alan Foster
Elena Kagan, current Solicitor General of The United States and former Dean of the Harvard Law School, exemplifies selective outrage. She knows a lot about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” when it comes to ROTC on the Harvard Campus, but wears official blinders when it comes to Islamic treatment of homosexuals.
When Professor Kagan ascended to the position of Dean of the Law School, Harvard was in a quandary over military recruitment. Long opposed to the military’s policy towards openly gay men and women but ever solicitous of the greenbacks offered by the federal government, the school tried to hedge its bets on the Solomon Amendment, passed in 1994, which required the Secretary of Defense to deny federal grants to institutions of higher learning that prohibited or prevented ROTC or military recruitment on campus. And who better to circumvent the law’s intent than the serried ranks of lawyers in Cambridge, Massachusetts? They argued that Washington money should still flow because even though the college placement office was barred to recruiters, ROTC courses could be offered by the Harvard Law School Veterans’ Association.
Training on campus was still verboten for Harvard ROTC candidates, and they were forced to travel down the road to MIT to fulfill their training obligations. Too clever by half? Some congressmen thought so, and they responded by fortifying the act in 2001 by passing an amendment that denied all funding — not just to law schools, but to the entire institution that prohibited or prevented recruiting. Although Dean Kagan did not sign a petition along with many of Harvard’s Law School faculty opposing the Solomon Amendment, she did join two amicus briefs in that regard, one submitted to the Supreme Court.
In 2006, The Supreme Court upheld the law, and only two schools refused to comply, thus forfeiting federal largesse. Now, these facts are widely known to the legal community and to many in the country at large. What is not so well-known is Dean Kagan’s contemporaneous approval of and promotion of a little-known but richly endowed Harvard Law School program called The Islamic Legal Studies Program. What does all this have to do with Elena Kagan and her principled stand on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?” It has a lot to do with honesty, integrity, and Harvard’s vaunted advocacy for human rights.
The Harvard Islamic Legal Studies Program was made part of Harvard Law School in 1991 with significant funding from distinctly undemocratic sources, mainly from the Gulf States. The program purports to be a research program “that seeks to advance knowledge and understanding of Islamic law.” The program works closely with the Harvard Islamic Finance Project, which became an official part of the Law School in 2003, the same year Professor Kagan was awarded the title of Dean.
But is it strictly a “research program”? A few times a year, the directors of the Finance Program take groups of promising Law School and Harvard Business School students to the Middle East on junkets to learn the intricate and arcane practices of Sharia Compliant Finance. Many of these promising students go on to work for such banks and investment firms as the Kuwait Finance House, HSBC Amanah Bank, and the Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank. The intertwined programs, it would seem, go far beyond mere “research” projects. Shariah Finance, it should be noted, is the Islamic approach to investing, mortgage lending, and a host of other money-related practices. Along with its prohibitions on interest accrual and trading in commodities such as pork, alcohol, and gambling is an overarching negative view of homosexuality. Negative, that is, to the point of advocating violence against gays.
Whatever dim views one may hold on the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of the U.S. Military, the policy pales in comparison to the outright calls to violence enunciated by some of the Islamic world’s most prestigious and powerful Shariah advisors.
Case in point: Meet Sheikh Muhammed Taqi Usmani, former appellate court judge in Pakistan, a Deobandi (one of the most extreme Pakistani schools of Islam, associated with the Pakistani Taliban)-trained jurist and chief Shariah advisor to the HSBC Amanah Bank, one of the world’s largest and richest banks and one of the sponsors of Harvard’s Islamic Finance Project. Among other delightful quotes from Sheikh Usmani:
For a non-Muslim state to have more pomp and glory than a Muslim state itself is an obstacle, therefore to shatter this grandeur is among the greater objectives of jihad (from Islam and Modernism)
Also from Usmani’s book: “Killing is to continue until the unbelievers pay jizyah (subjugation tax) after they are humbled or overpowered.”
Apparently, these kinds of medieval barbarities did not rise to the level of immorality embodied in the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. At any rate, Dean Kagan never objected to the underlying principles of the program at her law school. Perhaps topics from the program like “Recent Trends and Innovations in Islamic Debt Securities” distracted her from the fundamental discriminatory underpinnings of Sharia Law.
The idea that Harvard Law School would abide such opinions emanating from less well-heeled spokesmen is not even worthy of consideration. Imagine the nation’s preeminent law school hosting a program on “white supremacist law and finance.” It’s all about the money, of course. In addition to the funding of the Islamic Legal Studies Program, other Muslim plutocrats like Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who dropped twenty million dollars into Harvard’s coffers a few years ago, have had a tremendous influence on the university and its culture.
If Sheikh Usmani’s views on jihad were not repellent enough, keep in mind that homosexuality has been a crime under Shariah Law in his native Pakistan since 1860. According to that country’s penal code, enforced by Judge Usmani, Article 377 states:
Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than two years nor more than ten years, and shall also be liable to fine. Penetration is sufficient to constitute the carnal intercourse necessary to the offence described in this section.
And here, the chief Shariah Adviser to the sponsors of Harvard’s program writes:
It is the same modernity that has engulfed the whole world in the tornado of nudity and obscenity, and has provided an excuse for fornication, and moreso it has led under thunderclaps to the passage of a bill in the British House of Commons to legalize homosexuality (Islam and Modernism).
Suddenly “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” seems pretty benign.
Not only does the Harvard program feature homophobic and “homicidal” clerics, but even the Harvard Muslim Student Chaplain, Taha Abdul-Basser, who has lectured regularly at the Islamic Finance Project, declared apostasy from Islam a capital (not the finance kind) offense:
Abdul-Basser wrote that there was “great wisdom (hikma) associated with the established and preserved position (capital punishment [for apostates]) and so, even if it makes some uncomfortable in the face of the hegemonic modern human rights discourse, one should not dismiss it out of hand (The Harvard Crimson April 14, 2009).
Dean Kagan’s reticence about these programs at her own law school should raise serious questions of integrity, sincerity, forthrightness, and ultimately, honesty.
Alan Foster is a pseudonym.