Muslim Reformists, Female Citizenship and the Public Accommodation of Islam in Liberal Democracy
Politics and Religion, Cambridge University Press, Forthcoming
Posted: 18 Dec 2010 Last revised: 19 Jan 2011
Date Written: December 17, 2010
The European Court of Human Rights (“ECHR”), in a trilogy of cases involving Muslim claimants, has granted state parties to the European Convention on Human Rights a wide margin of appreciation with respect to the regulation of public manifestations of Islam. The ECHR has justified its decisions in these cases on the grounds that Islamic symbols, such as the hijāb, or Muslim commitments to the shari‘a – Islamic law – are inconsistent with the democratic order of Europe. This article raises the question of what kinds of commitments to gender equality and democratic decision-making are sufficient for a democratic order, and whether modernist Islamic teachings manifest a satisfactory normative commitment in this regard. It uses the arguments of two modern Muslim reformist scholars – Yūsuf al-Qaradāwī and ‘Abd al-Halīm Abū Shuqqa – as evidence to argue that if the relevant degree of commitment to gender equality is understood from the perspective political rather than comprehensive liberalism, doctrines such as those elaborated by these two religious scholars evidence sufficient commitment to the value of political equality between men and women. This makes less plausible the ECHR’s arguments justifying different treatment of Muslims on account of alleged Islamic commitments to gender hierarchy. It also argues that in light of Muslim modernist conceptions of the shari‘a, there is no normative justification to conclude that faithfulness to the shari‘a entails a categorical rejection of democracy as the ECHR suggested. The full text of the article is available for download from my web page on the University of Toronto Faculty of Law webpage.
Keywords: Islam, Democracy, Gender Equality, Political Liberalism, Theological Reasoning, Public Reason, Militant Democracy
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