Beyond Beliefs: Deconstructing the Dominant Narratives of the Islamization of Pakistan's Law
The American Journal of Comparative Law, Vol. 60, No. 4, 2012
24 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2013 Last revised: 28 Feb 2013
Date Written: 2012
The discourse on the 'Islamization' of laws in the legal systems of post-colonial Muslim states is dominated by two conflicting narratives. The dominant Western narrative views the Islamization of laws as the reincarnation of narrow and archaic laws embodied in discriminatory statutes. In contrast, the dominant narrative of political Islam deems it as the cure-all for a range of social, political and economic ills afflicting that particular Muslim state. This Paper presents a deeper insight into the Islamization of Pakistan's law. Pakistan has three decades of experience with incorporating shari'a law into its Common Law system, an experience which has been characterized by a constant struggle between the dominant Western and Islamist narratives. Pakistan's experience helps us deconstruct the narratives and discourses surrounding Islamization and understand that the project of incorporating Islamic laws in a modern Muslim society must be based upon indigenous demands and undertaken in accordance with the organically evolving norms of recognition, interpretation, modification and enforcement in that society. Furthermore, substantive law cannot be understood or enforced outside of a legal system, its legal culture(s) and professional discourse(s), and of the broader socio-political dialectics that give context and relevance to it. Therefore, we need to shift focus to the systemic problems deeply ingrained in Pakistan's legal system that allow law and legal processes to be used to prolong disputes and cause harassment. Islamic legality can, in fact, play a significant role in breaking down the resistance that vested interests may offer to such a restructuring of the legal system along more egalitarian lines.
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