North American Muslims are more than satisfied with the secular legal system and do not want a set of parallel courts for Islamic law, according to a new study of U.S. and Canadian Muslims by a Washington-based think tank.
The study, by University of Windsor law professor Judy Macfarlane for the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, would seem to refute critics’ claims that American Muslims want to impose Shariah, or Islamic law.
In fact, the study indicates that Muslims are just as unwilling to accept Islamic law as non-Muslims.
This is the first empirical study to ask North American Muslims what shari’a means to
them in their everyday lives. The study demonstrates that the present “moral panic” over
shari’a and its alleged impact on American legal and social culture is wildly overblown. For
most American Muslims shari’a represents a private system of morality and identity, primarily
focused on marriage and divorce rituals. None of the American Muslims interviewed for this
study expected American courts to enforce shari’a. Just like other Americans, they will access
the courts for adjudication according to American family law if they cannot make a private agreement (relating to divorce) that meets their needs and values.