Islam and the Humanities

Conference 2014

Kristen Stilt

Professor of Law and History, Northwestern University

Constitutionalizing Animals

Egypt’s new constitution includes a provision that commits the state to take measures to prevent cruelty to animals—the first such constitutional provision in the Muslim world. Animal rights groups in Egypt have been working for more than a decade to enshrine some meaningful protection for animals in Egyptian law, and since the 2011 revolution, and the abrogation of the constitution, they have been seeking a constitutional provision in the hopes that it will subsequently lead to national legislation. These groups ground their argumentation in both international norms that recognize and protect the interests of animals and a strong animal welfare current in classical Islamic law. This presentation will discuss how these activists have blended these two sources of authority, including a discussion of how they have gained and used the support of the highest religious authorities in Egypt and the international animal welfare community.

Kristen Stilt is professor of law and history at Northwestern University. She holds a PhD in History from Harvard University and a JD from The University of Texas. Her first book, Islamic Law in Action: Authority, Discretion, and Everyday Experiences in Mamluk Egypt, was published by Oxford University Press in 2011. She is currently working on a research project with a Guggenheim Fellowship on the development of constitutional Islam and a second project on the contemporary animal rights movement in the Muslim world.