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Abou El Fadl is no extremist

Reader comment on item: Conference of the Books: The Search for Beauty in Islam

Submitted by Prof. Yitzchak Adlerstein (United States), Oct 29, 2002 at 16:47

Khaled Abou El Fadl would not be my choice for Prime Minister of Israel, but an extremist he isn't. If anything, his frequent vocal and unambiguous condemnation of Islamic extremism have led to the banning of his books in the Arab world, serious death threats against him, and brought upon him the wrath of one of the major "moderate" Arab-American defense agencies.

We have spent hours together, including a long session at my very traditional Shabbat table. We have examined and compared the fine points of Jewish and Islamic law in various arcane areas. He has spoken, bravely and openly, in such places as the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which has zero tolerance for feigned moderation. His grasp of history and Islamic law is more than impressive. There is no doubting his scholarship. He knows enough about the history of Islamic law to be able to make a serious case from tradition that Islam has known moderation and tolerance in the past. He knows enough about the current Arab world not to believe that people are going to be flocking to his side.

Do we agree about major points regarding the State of Israel? Most certainly not. But it behooves us to recognize and applaud his achievement and his scholarship. He is also an honorable person -- and one day, it will be with people like Khaled that we negotiate some sort of peace.

Yitzchak Adlerstein
Sydney M Irmas Chair, Jewish Law and Ethics
Loyola Law School

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