Shari‘a in the West: Colonial consciousness in a context of normative competition


Muslims in Western countries have tried to preserve and transmit their worldview in various ways. Especially in the countries of the Anglosphere, Muslims have built institutions designed with legal ends in mind. Efforts to limit the role of shari‘a in Western countries can be seen as measures designed to preserve ‘secular’ Western law by constraining transmission and limiting interpretive possibilities within its jurisdictional range. These constraints and limitations are accomplished by invoking public policy, or distorting, or excluding Muslim law in other ways. A swathe of legislation has recently been enacted, or is in the process of being passed, to limit the interaction of official organs with the activities of these Muslim bodies, and to restrict the activities of Muslim institutions. The position of Muslims as members of a non-dominant population also makes them the objects of certain ‘instructional’ initiatives. These result in subtle shifts within Muslim law which attempt to preserve the Islamic grundnorm, while adjusting interpretations of Islamic law to align with a Western normative account. Illustrated through a short description of the career of ‘forced marriage’, the transformation of experience through the adoption by Muslims of the account produced by Western culture is referred to as a variant of what Balagangadhara identifies as ‘colonial consciousness’.

The chapter is published in Elisa Giunchi (ed.): Islamic family law in the courts: experiences from Europe, Australia and North America. London: Routledge, 2014, pp. 14-31.

This entry was posted in Britain, Canada, Christianity, colonial conciousness, Islam, Islamic law, Muslims, S.N. Balagangadhara and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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