The public debate on Shariʿa councils in Britain has been heavily influenced by the assumption that the councils exist as religious authorities and that those who use them exercise their right to religious freedom. In Shariʿa Councils and Muslim Women in Britain Tanya Walker draws on extensive fieldwork from over 100 cases to argue for a radically different understanding of the setting and dynamics of the Shariʿa councils. The analysis highlights the pragmatic manoeuvrings of Muslim women, in pursuit of defined objectives, within limited space – holding in tension both the constraints of particular frameworks of power, and the realities of women’s agency. Despite this needed nuance in a polarised debate however, important questions about the rights of Muslim women remain.
International Law and the Reform of Sharī’a-derived Legislation
The debate surrounding women’s family rights under Sharī’a-derived law has long been held captive to the competing fundamentalisms of universalism and cultural relativism. These two conflicting perspectives fail to promote practical tools through which such laws can be reformed, without prejudice to their religious nature. This book examines the development of Egypt’s Sharī’a-derived family law, and its compatibility with international obligations to eliminate discrimination against women. It highlights the interplay between domestic reform processes, grounded in the tools of takhayyur, talfiq and ijtihad, and international institutions and mechanisms. In attempting to reconcile these two seemingly dissonant value systems, this book underscores the shortcomings of Egypt’s legislation, proposes particular reforms, while simultaneously presenting alternatives to insular interpretations of international women’s rights law.