The Future of Muslim Family Law in Western Democracies
Gewissen und Freiheit 39 (2011): 113-133
12 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2015
Date Written: 2011
When Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams suggested that some “accommodation” of Muslim family law was “unavoidable” in England, he was bitterly criticized in the world press. But he was raising a whole series of hard but “unavoidable” questions about marital, cultural, and religious identity and practice in Western democratic societies committed to human rights for all. This Article discusses those hard questions, with emphasis on the place of faith-based family laws in modern liberal societies. It briefly reviews the history of the law of marriage and religion in the West, including the liberalization movements of the last half century that have rankled many faith communities. It then analyzes the recent arguments for and against the accommodation of Shari’a family law in Western democracies, and compares those to the accommodation claims of Jewish and Christian communities. The Article suggests that one way forward is to consider the compromise struck between the state and religious communities regarding education, and the use of licenses and accreditation requirements to ensure a baseline of common education in public and religious schools, and a safeguard against abuses by religious officials.
Keywords: Sharia; Democracy; Faith-Based Family Laws; Religious Legal Systems; Family Law; Marriage Law; Polygamy; Sovereignty; Jewish Law; Accommodation; Religion and Education; Religious Freedom; First Amendment
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