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Islamic Divorce in North AmericaA Shari’a Path in a Secular Society$
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Julie Macfarlane

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199753918

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199753918.001.0001

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Legal Issues for Islamic Marriage and Divorce

Legal Issues for Islamic Marriage and Divorce

(p.210) 8 Legal Issues for Islamic Marriage and Divorce
Islamic Divorce in North America

Julie Macfarlane

Oxford University Press

This chapter opens with a discussion of the 2010 Oklahoma Referendum which vividly demonstrates public fears and misapprehensions about “shari’a law.” One such misapprehension is the belief (unsupported by evidence) that North American Muslims wish to establish shari’a as an alternate legal system. In contrast, this study suggests that Muslims understand their recourse to traditional processes such as Islamic marriage and divorce as an aspect of their private lives. The courts do not recognize Islamic marriage and divorce, refusing (in most cases) to enforce a promise by a husband to pay mahr contained in an Islamic marriage contract. At the same time, the courts (under the principle of “comity”) may recognize an Islamic marriage or divorce carried out in a Muslim country, even when it appears to be a sham to avoid obligations due in North America. There is clear evidence that North American Muslims use the courts in divorce matters (see chapter seven). Respondents saw no dissonance between their identity as Muslims and their citizen’s right to bring contentious matters to the courts. A very small number resisted either paying or receiving money under a court order because they felt this compromised their beliefs. Many more complained that the courts did not understand or respect Muslims.

Keywords:   2010 Oklahoma Referendum, Shari’a, Courts, Nikah, Mahr, Islamic divorce, overseas marriage and divorce, Muslims and the courts

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