Multiculturalism and Family Law: The Case of Greek Muslims
EUROPEAN CHALLENGES IN CONTEMPORARY FAMILY LAW, pp. 209-239, Katharina Boele-Woelki and Tone Sverdrup, eds., Intersentia, 2008
53 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2008 Last revised: 28 May 2011
Date Written: May 25, 2011
Multiculturalism calls for the recognition of the distinct norms and values of minority communities. However, the accommodation of cultural differences, especially in the area of family law, may often be incompatible with the traditional values of Western societies. The aim of this paper is twofold: first, to illustrate the scope of application of Islamic family law in Greece and the problems arising thereof; and second, to seek ways of reconciling the respect for cultural diversity and the protection of human rights. We first elaborate on the scope of application of Islamic law in Greece, by referring to the jurisdiction of the Mufti and the law he applies, as well as to the controversial way in which Greek civil courts deal with the application of Islamic law. We then comment on the coexistence of secular and religious jurisdiction and suggest that a single secular jurisdiction is the only regime that can lead to results consistent with the values of western democracies. Next we propose the use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms as a unifying framework that is predicated on the values and beliefs shared by the majority and the minority in Muslim Thrace. We illustrate that mediation is the best system as it can allow deviations from state family law and accommodate the parties' deeper religious interests that dictate compliance with Muslim cultural values. However, as an informal procedure it should be based on the unbiased consent of all parties and should not contradict fundamental human values. Protecting the rights of weaker parties is of paramount importance, as Muslim women have experienced social problems such as pervasive gender discrimination that are here discussed in the light of international human rights developments.
Keywords: Family law, multiculturalism, family values, Islamic law, Greek law, Muslim minority, mediation
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation