Muslim family law as a site of citizenship

Bohemian Rhapsody
The making of law by activist citizens

Forming a Muslim legal identity in family law on marriage, divorce, custody and inheritance has become an important part of constructing public space and political agency. This research investigates how contemporary British Muslim legal identity is being formed through an interaction between Shari’a law and English family law. The focus is on how the symbols, practices and discourses are being negotiated by key actors.

Muslims in Britain may prefer to arrange their family relationship in accordance with norms other than English Law alone. People marry, divorce, bring up their children and deal with death guided by a set of norms based on Shari’a law. In other words, a hybrid form of ‘British Muslim family law’ has developed over time which provides Muslims in the UK with an effective framework to do so.

The research focuses on everyday life processes and dynamics of identity production rather than an ‘end product’. The aim is to avoid describing British Muslims’ legal subjectivity in a way that reinforces and essentialises concepts such as identity (‘the English’) and place (i.e. ‘the nation’). Special emphasis is given to the contesting and contested nature of the institutions studied such as law, custom and religion.

The research analyses different contributing factors that produce this identity such as English law, Shari’a law, family, community, state apparatus or Ummah. These factors are examined through a constitutive understanding of law, which accounts for the interactive relationships between them.

This complex autonomous socio-legal field opens up for new possibilities to examine the development of Muslim legal identity as acts of citizenship rather than a ‘problem’ to national citizenship.

Picture: 'Bohemian Rhapsody' by Khaver Idrees. Copyright with artist. In the collection of Mrs Roumana & Mr Mohamed Khamisa QC. www.micagallery.com

Bohemian Rhapsody
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Oecumene: Citizenship after Orientalism is funded by an European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant (Institutions, values, beliefs and behaviour ERC-AG-SH2).

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