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Prior to Sept. 11, most students preparing for the Massachusetts bar exam needed convincing that a sound knowledge of international terrorism and Islamic law would be of practical value in their budding careers. During the months after the passenger jet attacks and U.S. military action in Afghanistan, key issues, such as the lawful detainment and civil rights of suspected foreign terrorists, have sparked increasing interest in such topics on law school campuses. Boston area law school administrators have acted quickly to meet the demand. At Harvard Law School, which boasts 268 courses and seminars, there’s a new elective on “Terrorism in the 21st Century” and a course entitled “Contemporary Islamic Thought.” This summer, the Islamic Legal Studies Program there will host a five-day series of lectures and panel discussions on Islamic legal systems, designed for practicing lawyers. The school’s fall semester studies program will include four extra courses on the subject, one at the law school and three at Harvard College. “We believe there is more than enough interest to sustain this extra curriculum,” says Peri Bearman, associate director of the Islamic Legal Studies Program, who described HLS as a front-runner in offering such a curriculum. “The law school, however, is essentially a training ground for American lawyers who will practice American law in the U.S., and therefore Islamic law is an elective very much on the periphery, however important it is in a world made up of 1.5 billion Muslims,” Bearman noted. In the weeks following the attacks, Harvard Law School faculty ran a number of public lectures and evening discussions for students to express insights into Sept. 11. Bearman says the lectures drew “double the amount of people” such forums normally draw, “and the outside public was visibly more in attendance as well.” The school’s fall curriculum offering will include two courses at the Divinity School on major themes of the Koran, as well as Islam and Democracy. Berman says the law school’s current offerings, which include “Survey of Islamic Legal Systems,” and a new course on “Contemporary Islamic Legal Thought,” drew increased attendance as well, with at least one-third to one-half more students than normal. FOSTERING MORE DISCUSSION At Suffolk University Law School, several new courses on international relations have been added to meet the growing interest in the post-Sept. 11 world, Associate Dean Marc C. Perlin says. “We have recently added some additional courses in the international field. For example, during the current semester, we have a new course on International Criminal Activity,” Perlin says. The school also hosted presentations related to terrorism, he adds. Other law schools in Massachusetts, however, are still building courses on terrorism and Islamic studies, which they hope to launch in the fall. Arthur Gaudio, dean at the Western New England College School of Law in Springfield, says the school is developing an elective course on the legal impact of terrorism. “I believe that, at the official level, the change that we will be making to our curriculum is to add a course or seminar on ‘Terrorism and the Law,’ ” Gaudio says of the course, which is still in its planning stages. “On a more unofficial level,” he notes, “Sept. 11 has affected each of us at some level, such that when we find the opportunity presented by the substance of the course or the direction of class discussion, we bring in the issues that Sept. 11 might offer.” At the Northeastern University School of Law, Dean Roger Abrams says the school has not yet devoted any new courses to the subject of terrorism and the law.”It is difficult to do that in the middle of the year, but many faculty have raised issues arising from Sept. 11 in their classes — in particular, concerns about the enhanced security’s impact on civil rights and liberties and racial profiling,” Abrams says. Before Sept. 11, students at HLS felt there was no practical reason for an American lawyer to study Islamic law, Bearman maintains. The collapse of the twin towers changed all that. “The attacks of Sept. 11 certainly stimulated many at the law school to find out more about Islam as a religion and its legal system,” he says. Before Sept. 11, “they were content to know extremely little about [those topics] or to hold misconceptions,” Bearman says.

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