Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Sharia Marriages in the West

From the Economist:

SHIRIN MUSA draws on bitter experience to inspire her work to help women caught between legal and cultural worlds. Educated and long-resident in the Netherlands, she was unhappily married to a man from her native Pakistan. In 2009 a Dutch judge put a legal end to their union but her husband would not grant an Islamic divorce. Although she lived in secular Europe, this refusal mattered. If she remarried, she would be considered an adulteress under Islamic law and risk punishment if she returned to Pakistan.

So Ms Musa pursued her spouse through the Dutch courts. In 2010 she received a landmark judgment: he would be fined €250 ($295) a day, up to a maximum of €10,000 ($11,795), as long as he refused to cooperate. This had the desired effect. She then persuaded the Dutch parliament to make holding women in such “marital captivity” a criminal offence, in theory punishable by jail. Now she runs Femmes for Freedom, a charity that campaigns for people in similar situations. “I was lucky to be well-educated and have a supportive blood family,” she says. “Others are not.”

Read more here.

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For many years people in secular Europe have worked hard to reduce the influence of religion on their lives. Now Mrs Musa is trying to say that in the same secular Europe we need, through regulatory provisions to prove the importance of Islam over people’s life. Religious marriage of Muslim women in Europe and church marriage of orthodox Christians in eastern Europe, for example have the same religious value. However after east orthodox divorce through the civil law, they never consider pursuing the church for divorce or calling this marital captivity or thinking of themselves of committers of adultery. Mrs Musa should advocate within her community for changes of values and perceptions about the role of religion and help Muslim people integrate in the secular Europe and embrace the rules and culture of the host societies. In reality Muslim women in Europe are not much affected if they do not get religious divorce. It is better for those activists to fight women’s family rights in their own countries like Pakistan, where the religious marriage really means something and may impact negatively gender rights and freedoms.

Posted by: Desire Jongstra | Dec 20, 2017 5:04:43 AM

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