On 27 February 2013, Professor Kristen Stilt presented her book project, Constitutional Islam: Genealogies, Transmissions, and Meanings at the Constitutional Transitions Colloquium. Stilt is a Professor of Law at Northwestern University School of Law, and is an affiliated faculty member in the History Department. A video-recording of her presentation is available here.
Stilt’s book project focuses on the incorporation of references to Islam and Islamic law in modern constitutions. Among these references are what Stilt calls the Islamic “establishment clause,” which provides that Islam is the religion of the state; the “source of law clause,” which states that the Islamic shariah or its principles are either a source, or the main source, of legislation; the “Islamic state clause,” which declares that the nation is an Islamic state; and the “repugnancy clause,” which explicitly declares invalid any laws that are in conflict with shariah.
The “establishment clause,” Stilt notes, is the most common of these, having been incorporated into the modern constitution of more than twenty countries. At the colloquium, Stilt discussed the history of Malaysia’s constitution, drafted just before the country’s independence from Britain in 1957. She explained that what drove the incorporation of this clause was not a commitment to Islam per se, but rather the construction of a post-colonial Malaysian identity around the overlapping grounds of ethnicity, language, and citizenship, and the building of a strong central government that would hem the authority of the hereditary rulers of many Malaysian states under a federal constitution. Stilt also connected her research to the current constitutional processes underway in Egypt and Tunisia, and considered its implications for future processes in Libya and Syria.
The next session of the Constitutional Transitions Colloquium, on 3 April 2013, will feature Professor Asli Bâli, Assistant Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law.