Sen. Sessions Attacks Kagan Over Harvard Islamic Studies Program

June 16, 2010 4:47 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

Today, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) promoted yet another untenable attack on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan.  In a speech on the Senate floor, Sessions — the ranking Judiciary Committee Republican — argued that Kagan's military recruitment policy at Harvard Law School was not actually based on "morally principled" opposition to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."  His supposed evidence: Harvard University established an Islamic Studies program while Kagan was dean of the law school.

SESSIONS: And now information has come to light suggesting that uh, Ms. Kagan may even have been less morally principled in her approach than has been portrayed. Around the same time that Dean Kagan was campaigning to exclude military recruiters, citing what she saw as the evils of Don't Ask Don't Tell, Harvard University accepted $20 million from the Saudi Royal Family to establish a Center for Islamic Studies and, uh, Sharia Law. As the Obama State Department report concerning Saudi Arabia and the Sharia law, uh, concept noted, quote, "Under Sharia as interpreted by Saudi Arabia's sexual act — sexual activity between two persons of the same gender is punishable by death or flogging," close quote. So she was perfectly willing to obstruct the military, which has liberated countless Muslims from hate and tyranny of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban but seems she was willing to sit on the hands - sidelines as Harvard created a center funded by and dedicated to foreign leaders presiding over a legal system that, uh, would violate what appear to be her positions.


Sessions' argument is ridiculous for several reasons.  For starters, Islamic Studies is a university-wide program at Harvard, not part of the law school. (John McCain recently made a similar mistake when he blamed Kagan for Harvard's decades-old ban on ROTC.)  In fact, HLS offers only one course in Middle Eastern Law — not that it's relevant to Kagan's qualifications.     

Furthermore, the Islamic Studies Program is not a program in "Sharia law" at all.  Rather, it offers a wide variety of courses, including "Religion in Global Politics," "Early Iranian Civilizations," and "Christianity Along The Silk Road." Sessions' emphasis on "Sharia law" — a misunderstood term encompassing all "sacred and secular" practices of the Islamic faith — is nothing more than shameless Muslim-baiting. 

Finally, it's worth mentioning that the grant for the program was given by Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, who happens to be the largest stockholder in Fox News outside of the Murdoch family.  Fox News, of course, is one of Sessions' key allies in the fight against President Obama's judicial nominees.