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Abstract

An unexpected development in the English legal system involves Muslim women’s use of legally binding Shar’ia councils to protect their autonomy, marital security, and property rights. Although scholars and political commentators alike have voiced concerns that Muslim women will be treated unfairly in these councils, there is some indication that women have become adept at navigating this plural legal landscape and that they have often managed to secure better outcomes from Shar’ia family law than from English courts. Over 80 Shar’ia tribunals have been established to issue legally binding decisions on divorce, child custody, inheritance, and other areas of family law. My paper investigates the ways in which Muslim women living in England navigate secular and religious systems of law, and will compare decisions made by English family courts to those made in Shar’ia councils. In so doing, I will suggest that Shar’ia law may be proliferating in England in part because it affords divorced Muslim women better outcomes than English family law.

DOI

10.5642/lux.201301.03