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Daily Telegraph article on alleged teaching of Sharia Law

14 July 2017

The Daily Telegraph today published a story claiming the University is teaching that "elements of Sharia Law should be recognised in our legal system". Due to the public interest generated by the article we are publishing our exchange.

The Daily Telegraph published the article criticising the University of Sydney Law School over the fact that it teaches courses that according to the Telegraph are "pushing for recognition of Sharia Law, polygamy and young marriage in Australian legal system". 

The Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stephen Garton, today expressed his disappointment at the Telegraph’s coverage of this issue and its failure to report the answers the University provided to the Telegraph reporter when questions were put to the University.

Professor Garton said it is an important element of any world-class law school curriculum to provide comparative law options as part of that program and the University of Sydney offers courses in areas such as Japanese Law, Chinese Law, US Law, European legal systems, Roman Law and much more.

Units on Islamic law and legal systems are a commonplace and legitimate part of any comparative legal systems curriculum and are designed to equip our students to function effectively in many international contexts and appreciate many of the different legal traditions that might be relevant as part of functioning in a global context.

Given the public interest in this matter, we believe it is important to provide the publication’s questions and our responses are below:

Questions, Monday 10 July:

I'm doing a story on the Islamic Law course at your university and was chasing some information.

  • How many students were enrolled in this subject in the last 12 months?
  • What is the cost of running the course? (If this information is not available, what is the Law Faculty's budget?)

University response: 

  • Introduction to Islamic Law is an optional unit of study which students can choose to take at the University of Sydney Law School.
  • Approximately 23 students enrolled in this unit of study in 2016.
  • We do not budget on a unit of study basis and our overall budget figure would not enable an assessment of the costs to run a unit of study.

Follow-up question, Tuesday 11 July:

Does the university want to comment on running a course that teaches students about Sharia Law?

University response:

A subject introducing students to Islamic Law forms part of numerous law degrees throughout Australia, including those of four other fellow members of the Group of Eight Universities. Such courses are also common in major international universities such as Harvard, Warwick and the University of London.

Introduction to Islamic Law is an optional course that provides a basic understanding of the sources of Islamic Law and its interpretation. Enrolled students also gain a valuable understanding of Islamic banking and finance law and practice in many major Islamic countries. These nations are important to the global economy and many of them are vital trading partners for Australian businesses.

Students can choose this course from more than 50 optional courses at the University of Sydney Law School.