In a Washington Times column accompanied by an image of Elena Kagan in a turban, Frank Gaffney attacked Kagan for allowing Harvard Law School to sponsor an Islamic Finance Project during her deanship. However, sponsorship of Islamic finance programs is not extreme; the Bush administration sponsored such programs, as have major banks.
Gaffney attacks Harvard Law's Islamic Finance Project
Gaffney: Kagan enabled “the penetration of Shariah into our capital markets through the Harvard Law School's Islamic Finance Project.” In his July 19 Washington Times column -- headlined: “Kagan's Shariah problem: Nominee backed Islamic compliance of U.S. financial sector” -- Frank Gaffney wrote that Kagan “enabl[ed]” “the penetration of Shariah into our capital markets through the Harvard Law School's Islamic Finance Project.” He added:
This is accomplished via legal support to an industry known as Shariah-compliant finance (SCF). It was invented in the mid-20th century by Brotherhood operatives as a means of facilitating and underwriting the penetration of Shariah into Western societies by mainlining it into their capitalist bloodstreams.
Wash. Times accompanied Gaffney column with image of Kagan in turban. The Washington Times ran the following image of Kagan in a turban with Gaffney's July 19 column. It was captioned, “Illustration: Elena Kagan and Sharia.”
In fact, the Bush administration and major banks have sponsored Islamic finance programs
In 2002, Bush Treasury Department hosted “Islamic Finance 101 Seminar” -- the “result of a collaborative effort between the Treasury Department and the Harvard Islamic Finance Information Program.” According to the “Introductory Remarks By John B. Taylor, Under Secretary For International Affairs, United States Treasury, At The Islamic Finance 101 Seminar Held At The U.S. Treasury Department, Washington, DC” -- dated April 26, 2002 -- Taylor said:
Welcome to Islamic Finance 101! As the Under Secretary for International Affairs at the Department of Treasury, I want to thank you all for joining us at this seminar on the fundamentals of Islamic Finance.
Today's event is a result of a collaborative effort between the Treasury Department and the Harvard Islamic Finance Information Program (HIFIP). HIFIP helped us design this program and enabled us to invite prominent Islamic financial experts to speak today. We truly appreciate HIFIP's assistance in making this event possible.
Bush Treasury undersecretary: “I've observed that the economic principles of Islamic finance and conventional finance are the same.” From Taylor's 2002 remarks:
Treasury's Office of International Affairs implements the U.S. government's international finance and economic development policies and develops U.S. policy towards the World Bank and IMF. We have had a growing interest Islamic finance because of its rapid growth and significant presence in many partners of the United States such as Bahrain, Egypt, Indonesia, Kuwait, Malaysia and Pakistan.
Following the events of September 11, President Bush made a top priority of combating the financing of terrorism. Lawful and legitimate institutions such as conventional banks, Islamic banks, money transfer services, hawalas and charities must not be abused by terrorists. We are working with the international community to ensure just that. We need to understand how these legitimate institutions operate so that we can help strengthen them and prevent terrorists from abusing these institutions. From my exposure so far, I've observed that the economic principles of Islamic finance and conventional finance are the same, though the structure of Islamic financial transactions can be different.
Today's seminar was inspired by a roundtable that Secretary O'Neill attended last month in Bahrain. At the roundtable, hosted by Citibank Bahrain's Islamic Investment Bank, the participants described the philosophy behind Islamic finance; they went into the nitty-gritty of an Islamic financial transaction; and they discussed the accounting and supervisory issues related to Islamic banking. I'm pleased that one of the speakers from that roundtable has joined us on today's panel Dr. Rifaat Abdel Karim, the head of the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions. We left the roundtable with a sense of what Islamic finance really is - the Secretary wanted to make sure that we hosted a similar event in the United States to “demystify” Islamic banking for our colleagues in Washington who may not have exposure to this topic.
I thought you might also be interested to know about the increasing international effort being made to understand Islamic finance. We recently held a meeting of G-7 Finance Ministers and invited other world leaders to participate. At this meeting, the Central Bank Governor of Malaysia, Dr. Zeti Akhtar Aziz gave us an informative short presentation on Islamic finance and led us in a discussion.
I hope that today we will have an open dialogue about Islamic finance end encourage you to feel free to ask questions and make comments. We have a wide array of audience members including commercial bankers, investors, banking regulators, economists, policymakers, Congressional staffers, researchers, lawyers, consultants as well as Islamic banking practitioners. I look forward to hearing the questions that you pose during the Q & A session as I expect that they will reflect your wide-ranging experiences and interests.
In 2004, Bush Treasury department launched “Islamic Finance Scholar-in-Residence Program.” From a June 2, 2004, Treasury Department press release:
Treasury Launches New Islamic Finance Scholar-in-Residence Program
The U.S. Treasury today announced the appointment of Dr. Mahmoud El-Gamal to serve as the first Islamic Finance Scholar-in-Residence. Dr. El-Gamal will serve as a principal advisor on Islamic Finance to senior Treasury officials and he will liaise with international organizations that are seeking to create standards for and monitor Islamic finance. He will interact with various U.S. government agencies to provide an overview of the recent developments on formulating new and harmonizing current international regulatory standards, and have an opportunity to conduct workshops on Islamic finance, including overview of the industry, prudent supervision/regulation, accounting standards, governance practices, and debt management.
John Taylor, Under Secretary for International Affairs, said, “We are delighted that Dr. El-Gamal is joining us as the first Scholar-In-Residence on Islamic Finance. With the recent growth of the Islamic finance industry, deeper understanding of Islamic finance is priority for this Administration. I have already learned much from Dr. El-Gamal's research, and look forward to interacting with him on important policy issues.”
The purpose of the Islamic Finance Scholar-in-Residence program is to promote broader awareness of Islamic finance practices internationally and domestically for U.S. government policymakers, regulators, and the public at large. While mainly practiced in the Middle East and Asia, the Islamic finance industry is growing in Europe and in North America. Dr. El-Gamal - with his extensive background in Islamic finance - will play a critical role in advancing the importance of promoting good practices in risk management and transparency in this area.
Dr. El-Gamal is the Chaired Professor of Islamic Economics, Finance and Management and Professor of Statistics and Economics at Rice University in Houston, Texas. He previously held teaching positions at the University of Wisconsin, California Institute of Technology, and the University of Rochester, in addition to working as an economist at the International Monetary Fund. Dr. El-Gamal received a B.A. in Economics and Computer Science and an M.A. in Economics from the American University of Cairo, an M.S. in Statistics from Stanford University, and a Ph.D. in Economics from Northwestern University.
Gaffney claimed Harvard award to Pakistani Justice Chaudhry was “another Kagan connection to Shariah”
Gaffney's second “Kagan connection to Shariah”: Pakistani Justice Chaudhry awarded Harvard Law School Medal of Freedom. In the same Times column, Gaffney continued:
Against this backdrop, another Kagan connection to Shariah looms large. My colleague Christine Brim observed in a post at Andrew Breitbart's awesome new national security Web portal, BigPeace.com: During her time as Harvard Law's dean, Ms. Kagan twice (once in absentia, the other time in person) awarded the school's Medal of Freedom to the controversial chief justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Chaudhry.
But Wash Times itself decried Chaudhry's ousting
Harvard Law School recognized Chaudhry in 2007 for his efforts to uphold rule of law in Pakistan. In 2007, the Harvard Law School Association decided to award Pakistani Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry its highest honor -- the Harvard Law School Medal of Freedom. According to Harvard Law School:
Following [a 2007] military crackdown in Pakistan and the detention of hundreds of lawyers, the Harvard Law School Association has decided to award Pakistani Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry its highest honor: The Harvard Law School Medal of Freedom. Chaudhry was detained after he convened the Pakistani Supreme Court to declare the current state of emergency imposed by General Pervez Musharraf to be null and void.
Although Chaudhry has been placed under house arrest and is not free to leave Pakistan, Dean Elena Kagan has reached out to the chief justice regarding the award and hopes that he'll be able to come to the Law School to receive it when the state of emergency is lifted.
“As lawyers who value freedom and the rule of law, we at Harvard Law School want Chief Justice Chaudhry and all of the courageous lawyers in Pakistan to know that we stand with them in solidarity,” said Kagan. “We are proud to be their colleagues in the cause of justice, and we will do all we can to press for the prompt restoration of constitutionalism and legality in Pakistan.”
The Medal of Freedom was established by Harvard Law School to honor the achievements of individuals who have worked to uphold the legal system's fundamental commitment to freedom, justice, and equality.
Chaudhry accepted the award in 2008, when he was no longer under house arrest in Pakistan. Harvard Law School reported:
At the HLS ceremony, Kagan described Chaudhry's contribution to the rule of law as “inestimable” and said: “We pause to honor what happened last year, when a brave judge, supported by brave lawyers, stood up for the rule of law, and captured the imagination of his people and the world.” Watch the webcast. (Read text of speech)
Last year, after Chaudhry suggested that Pakistan's constitution prohibited General Pervez Musharraf from serving as president while still in uniform, Musharraf installed a new chief justice and ordered that Chaudhry be placed under house arrest. The deposed chief justice continued to speak out for the rule of law.
The moves against Chaudhry sparked protests by Pakistani lawyers and mass demonstrations in support of an independent judiciary--and ultimately contributed to Musharraf's resignation in August.
Wash Times 2008: Musharraf's “worst offense was in firing Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry” and other judges. From an August 19, 2008, Washington Times editorial headlined, “Musharraf's resignation”:
Mr. Musharraf's stalwart attempts to assist America against Islamic extremists earned him $10 billion in aid for his country. Yet, he altered the nation's constitution at a whim in order to augment his powers. His failure to restore civilian rule in a timely fashion ultimately led to a backlash that forced him from office His worst offense was in firing Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in 2007 and 60 other judges whom he feared would threaten the legitimacy of his rule. Mr. Musharraf at last stepped down as army chief. But his gesture was too little, too late. Ultimately, his tenure of power fell far short of the “true democracy” he had promised in 1999.
Gaffney has history of making wild, baseless, Islamophobic claims
Gaffney: “There is mounting evidence that the president ... actually may still be [a Muslim] himself.” In his June 9, 2009, Washington Times column, Gaffney wrote: “With Mr. Obama's unbelievably ballyhooed address in Cairo... to what he calls 'the Muslim world' (hereafter known as 'the Speech'), there is mounting evidence that the president not only identifies with Muslims, but actually may still be one himself.” Gaffney concluded: “In the final analysis, it may be beside the point whether Mr. Obama actually is a Muslim. In the Speech and elsewhere, he has aligned himself with adherents to what authoritative Islam calls Shariah -- notably, the dangerous global movement known as the Muslim Brotherhood -- to a degree that makes Mr. Clinton's fabled affinity for blacks pale by comparison.”
Gaffney: "[I]t increasingly appears" Obama “will be embracing the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood.” From Gaffney's March 17, 2009, Washington Times column:
President Obama on Friday reiterated for the umpteenth time his determination to develop a “new relationship” with the Muslim world. On this occasion, the audience were the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Unfortunately, it increasingly appears that, in so doing, he will be embracing the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood - an organization dedicated to promoting the theo-political-legal program authoritative Islam calls Shariah and that has the self-described mission of “destroying Western civilization from within.”
As part of Mr. Obama's “Respect Islam” campaign, he will travel to Turkey in early April. While there, he will not only pay tribute to an Islamist government that has systematically wrested every institution from the secular tradition of Kemal Ataturk and put the country squarely on the path to Islamification. He will also participate in something called the “Alliance of Civilizations.”
Gaffney made false and baseless claims about Obama's birth certificate. In his October 14, 2008, Washington Times column, Gaffney falsely claimed that a “question yet to be resolved is whether Mr. Obama is a natural born citizen of the United States. ... Obama has, to date, failed to provide an authentic birth certificate which could clear up the matter.” In fact, as Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted, in addition to posting a copy of Sen. Barack Obama's birth certificate on the campaign website, the Obama campaign reportedly provided the original document to FactCheck.org, whose staff reported in an August 21 article that they “have now seen, touched, examined and photographed the original birth certificate” and wrote that it “meets all of the requirements from the State Department for proving U.S. citizenship.” Even the right-wing website WorldNetDaily reported in an August 23 article that a “WND investigation into Obama's birth certificate utilizing forgery experts also found the document to be authentic.” Indeed, the Hawaii Department of Health has confirmed that the birth certificate posted online by the Obama campaign is “a valid Hawaii state birth certificate” and has called the speculation about Obama's citizenship “pretty ridiculous.”