Muslim Families, Politics and the Law : A Legal Industry in Multicultural Britain book cover
1st Edition

Muslim Families, Politics and the Law
A Legal Industry in Multicultural Britain

ISBN 9781472451217
Published April 28, 2015 by Routledge
360 Pages

USD $160.00

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Book Description

Contemporary European societies are multi-ethnic and multi-cultural, certainly in terms of the diversity which has stemmed from the immigration of workers and refugees and their settlement. Currently, however, there is widespread, often acrimonious, debate about ’other’ cultural and religious beliefs and practices and limits to their accommodation. This book focuses principally on Muslim families and on the way in which gender relations and associated questions of (women’s) agency, consent and autonomy, have become the focus of political and social commentary, with followers of the religion under constant public scrutiny and criticism. Practices concerning marriage and divorce are especially controversial and the book includes a detailed overview of the public debate about the application of Islamic legal and ethical norms (shari’a) in family law matters, and the associated role of Shari’a councils, in a British context. In short, Islam generally and the Muslim family in particular have become highly politicized sites of contestation, and the book considers how and why and with what implications for British multiculturalism, past, present and future. The study will be of great interest to international scholars and academics researching the governance of diversity and the accommodation of other faiths including Islam.



Ralph Grillo is Emeritus Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Sussex where he was formerly Dean of the School of African and Asian Studies and founding director of the Research Centre for Culture, Development and the Environment. Although he has also written on the anthropology of development and the anthropology of language, he has had a long-standing concern with transnational migration and ethnicity in Africa and Europe. Since the mid-1990s he has focused on cultural diversity and its governance in France, Italy, and the UK. Increasingly this has involved working with anthropologists, lawyers and political scientists on issues relating to cultural and religious diversity and the law in Europe and North America, with a particular interest in the ’legal industry’ which has grown up around Islam.


'In this book Ralph Grillo undertakes a careful and nuanced dissection of much of the current controversy around Muslim families and gender roles in Britain. He exposes the multiple layers of argument and public discussion about a subject which has become surrounded by obfuscation and double standards. While focusing on Britain this book has implications for similar discussions elsewhere in Europe, while drawing on his anthropological expertise from outside Europe. If politicians and journalists would take note of Ralph Grillo’s insights, one might hope for a more reasoned public debate.' Jørgen S. Nielsen, Hon. Professor, University of Copenhagen, Denmark 'This book, written by a leading scholar of cultural diversity, will be essential reading for academics and policy makers as well as all those who want to accurately understand some of the most controversial public debates about Muslim families in the Western liberal democracies.' Maleiha Malik, King's College University of London, UK ’The growing visibility of Islam in Europe is giving rise to a very disparate range of reactions. Focusing predominantly on family law, an issue that touches directly on personal identity, Ralph Grillo illustrates how this debate rarely reflects the necessary nuance; rather, it is often presented in the starkest of terms, with virulent opposition to any form of legal accommodation of Muslim practices. This approach feeds social anxiety and intensifies tensions, and can ultimately lead to violence. Grillo’s careful analyses of such incendiary arguments, drawn from recent events, reveal his genuine commitment to countering islamophobic tendencies in Great Britain.’ Marie-Claire Foblets, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Germany ’Dealing with Muslim family law is not just a legal industry, it enters a political minefield in contestations over the right law in multi-ethnic, multi-faith and multi-cultural Britain. This daring book by a mature scholar brilli