Conceiving Islamic Law in a Pluralist Society: History, Politics and Multicultural Jurisprudence
25 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2007
The oft-repeated idea of Sharia as a code of law, and thereby rigid and inflexible, reflects a concept of law arguably with a provenance stemming from the 18th and 19th centuries during the period of European colonization in Muslim lands. With the advent of European-style laws, legal institutions, and legal curricula, Sharia was reduced to an abstract body of doctrines disconnected from a historical or institutional context. This concept of Sharia has transformed its significance: no longer a rule of law tradition, it is often used to provide (over)determinate anchors in contests over political identity. As liberal societies grapple to find a place for religious communities such as Muslims, this paper suggests that governments and private parties cooperate to develop a Muslim civil society sector that facilitates debate within the religious community, and between the government and the religious community. Civil society can be used to empower competing voices within the Muslim community, undermine conceptions of religious absolutism, and foster a mutual accommodation between religious commitment and national values.
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