Rechtskulturen Colloquium
Mon 18 Jun 2012 | 18:00–20:00

Caring for the soul: authority, ethics and knowledge practices in British sharia councils

Julie Billaud (Rechtskulturen Fellow), Comment: Ahmed Fekry Ibrahim (EUME Fellow)

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Juristische Fakultät, Room E 25, Unter den Linden 9, 10099 Berlin

For the past 10 years, demands for recognition of European Muslims’ legal needs have been interpreted as the failure of integration policies or as threats to democratic values, and more specifically to gender equality.
This paper seeks to characterize the nature of these demands by studying the gender dynamics, personal motivations and values that guide them. Based on ethnographic research conducted in several British shariah councils in 2009 and 2012, this paper interrogates issues of authority and knowledge claims in Islamic legal practice in contemporary England. Moving away from the methodological individualism that dominates in debates on multiculturalism, this paper offers a contextualised, empirically grounded approach to the complexities of ‘identity politics’ in post-colonial England. I define shariah councils as ‘counter public spaces’, where Islam represents the discursive terrain upon which religious actors struggle to define alternative conceptions of justice and morality.

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