When States Legally Sanction Discrimination

Integrating Islamic law in family law in European and North American societies poses a serious threat to women’s rights – and to national integrity, writes Elham Manea, Swiss-Yemeni political scientist

Every time the suggestion of introducing Islamic law in Western legal system is mentioned, it is tempered by its proponents with the sentence: this would only affect the family law. Ye it is precisely because this suggestion concerns family law, it should be rejected. For the issue here relates to nothing but legally sanctioned discrimination against women and children.

Calls for the introduction of forms of Islamic Law, Sharia, into European and North American legal systems have often been made by three groups of people.

First, from Islamic organizations which often represent a traditional if not conservative reading of Islam. Second, from high European or North American officials or figures, who seem to be genuinely concerned about the integration of Muslim communities in their respective countries, and consider the move inevitable for any “successful” integration of Muslims. Third, from within the circle of legal anthropology academics, who are leading a theoretical and intellectual discourse on the state.