The New Republic’s big story this week is about Abou El Fadl, a scholar of Islamic law who teaches at the UCLA School of Law. Because El Fadl chooses a different branch of Islamic scholarship than the Wahabbists endorse, he is subjected to constant harassment by the intolerant majority of modern Islamic scholars. El Fadl explains that Wahabbism has come to dominate Islamic scholarship because the Saudi Arabians have spent many millions of dollars to make it that way. I could summarize how El Fadl’s views differ from those of the Wahabbists, but I’d do a poor job of it. Read the article instead (even though it requires registration).
El Fadl came to my attention last fall when I read an interview with him from The American Lawyer in which he explained how modern fundamentalist Islam is a radical departure from the Islamic legal tradition, which encouraged scholarship and critical interpretation of the Koran. When you read about El Fadl, you realize how radically Islam has to change in order to get away from its backward modern interpretation. With the Saudis spending bucketloads of money to shift the game in favor of the status quo, it’s not likely to start moving in a new direction anytime soon, either.