At a meeting of international religious scholars in New Delhi in January 2017 a new entity was launched, an academic, apolitical and non-governmental regional association to be known as the South Asia Consortium for Religion and Law Studies [SACRALS]. with Professor Tahir Mahmood as its first president. Professor Brett Scharffs and Professor Cole Durham, the Director and Founding Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies (ICLRS) at Brigham Young University, along with members of the Center’s International Advisory Council, attended the launch.
Religion and Law Studies – encompassing theoretical and empirical studies and research on the relationship between state, law, and religion in a human rights perspective – is a fast-growing academic discipline being pursued in many leading universities across the globe. The International Center for Religion and Law Studies is a pioneering institution in this regard, having since the year 2000 been pursuing this discipline through academic events organized all over the world and assisting in the development of other international and regional organizations as they explored law and religion issues through conferences, workshops and summer schools. Among such organizations are the International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies (ICLARS), headquartered in Milan, Italy, the African Consortium for Law and Religion Studies (ACLARS), and regional consortia operating in South America.
In India, Professor Tahir Mahmood, a prominent legal academic of the nation, had set up in 1987 an Academy of Law and Religion (ALR) which had published some literature and launched a bi-annual journal called Religion and Law Review. Five years later the institution had been merged with New Delhi’s Institute of Objective Studies which has since been publishing the said journal. In 2003 Professor Mahmood had set up a School of Religion and Law at Amity University, which was later elevated as the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies where religion and law studies form part of the curriculum for postgraduate and doctoral degree programs. The Institute later formed and is maintaining an Indian Association of Scholars of Religion and Law.
With its headquarters in India, SACRALS will have institutional support from Amity University and will conduct academic programs in all the eight South Asian nations – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Pakistan – besides collaborating and interacting with similar institutions and organizations operating at national, regional and international levels in other parts of the world.
Under the leader of Professor Mahmood, SACRALS will have a National Council consisting of Indian scholars and a Regional Council with members from the other South Asian states – both chaired by a President who will always be from India. In addition, a group of the world’s leading scholars of religion and law scholars will serve as Patrons d’Honneur. Professor Cole Durham and Professor Brett Scharffs are the first members of this group.