Shah on Muslim Law in the Western Context

Prakash Shah (Queen Mary, University of London School of Law) has posted In Pursuit of the Pagans: Muslim Law in the English Context. The abstract follows.

In this Working Paper, I make the case that a reconfiguration of law is taking place in the contact between Western and Muslim law. Muslim law is itself a complex, pluralistic amalgam of different legal ‘bricks’, and in the context of the struggle for Islam to be acknowledged as a legitimate source of value pluralism in the Western context, the religious aspects of Muslim law, with their doctrinal justifications, are being foregrounded. With the English case as the main focus, I further argue that customs among Muslims are suppressed in this process of ‘shariatisation’. Beyond that, even Muslim doctrines are being placed under the spotlight in various ways. These changes are taking place as a result of Muslims living as non-dominant communities in Europe, where they are under the gaze of the dominant culture and are judged to be potential or actual violators of human rights and the rule of law. Relying on Balagangadhara’s (2005) explanation of the ‘dynamic of religion’, I present these processes as an outcome of the collision of two religious cultures, the Islamic and the Western.

Pierik on State Neutrality in Europe

Roland Pierik (University of Amsterdam) has posted State Neutrality and the Limits of Religious Symbolism.  The abstract follows.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has concluded that the mandatory display of crucifixes in public school classrooms does not violate the European Convention. Many have questioned whether a supra-national court like the ECtHR is entitled to interfere in issues that are so intimately linked to the national identity of state parties. However, even if one agrees that the Court’s Grand Chamber was in the end correct not to interfere (by employing the margin of appreciation), one can still question whether a constitutional democracy like Italy is justified in enforcing an explicit Christian symbol in public schools.

In this chapter, I analyze the Lautsi case from the perspective of state neutrality. It is generally acknowledged in legal and political philosophy that contemporary constitutional democracies cannot be formally linked to some religious confession, except in a vestigial and largely symbolic sense. As Rajeev Bhargava argues, the idea of neutrality requires a “principled distance” between religion and the state, two entities that should be seen as distinct spheres with their own respective areas. In this chapter, I analyze whether the wish to hold on to such a religiously inspired tradition is consistent with the idea of state neutrality, a central value of contemporary constitutional democratic states. Read more

Kupchan, “No One’s World”

Perhaps somewhat peripherally related to religion proper, but No One’s World: The West, the Rising Rest, and the Coming Global Turn (OUP 2012), by Charles A. Kupchan (Georgetown) looks to contain much of interest for folks who think about law and religion.  The publisher’s description follows.

The world is on the cusp of a global turn. Between 1500 and 1800, the West sprinted ahead of other centers of power in Asia and the Middle East. Europe and the United States have dominated the world since. But today the West’s preeminence is slipping away as China, India, Brazil and other emerging powers rise. Although most strategists recognize that the dominance of the West is on the wane, they are confident that its founding ideas–democracy, capitalism, and secular nationalism–will continue to spread, ensuring that the Western order will outlast its primacy.

In No One’s World, Charles A. Kupchan boldly challenges this view, arguing that the world is headed for political and ideological diversity; emerging powers will neither defer to the West’s lead nor converge toward the Western way. The ascent of the West was the product of social and economic conditions unique to Europe and the United States. As other regions now rise, they are following their own paths to modernity and embracing their own conceptions of domestic and international order.

Kupchan contends that the Western order will not be displaced by a new great power or dominant political model. The twenty-first century will not belong to America, China, Asia, or anyone else. It will be no one’s world. For the first time in history, the world will be interdependent–but without a center of gravity or global guardian.

More than simply diagnosing what lies ahead, Kupchan provides a detailed strategy for striking a bargain between the West and the rising rest by fashioning a new consensus on issues of legitimacy, sovereignty, and governance. Thoughtful, provocative, sweeping in scope, this work is nothing less than a global guidebook for the 21st century.