Democratizing “Shari’a”: How Liberal Democracies Apply and Regulate Muslim Family Laws

Ringvorlesung "Normenkonflikte in pluralistischen Gesellschaften" des Exzellenzclusters "Die Herausbildung normativer Ordnungen"

Dr. Yüksel Sezgin (Syracuse University, New York)

3. Februar 2016, 18.15 Uhr
Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
Campus Westend, Hörsaalzentrum, HZ 10

Many view the shortage of democracy in the Muslim world as an evidence of incompatibility between “shari’a” and democracy. Despite this, however, surveys show that most Muslims want both democracy and “shari’a”. Is this an oxymoronic demand? Are democracy and shari‘abased (family) laws inherently incompatible? Should a democratic regime automatically refuse to accommodate Muslim laws? These important philosophical and theoretical questions are of existential signifi cance for emerging democracies in the Muslim world. Given the overwhelming public support for MFLs, popularly elected
Muslim governments will most likely need to preserve and in some cases even introduce shari‘a-based family laws. But if popularly elected Muslim governments are to become “true” democracies, then they will need to fi nd a way to balance the accommodation of MFLs with basic human rights and rule of law. But can this be achieved at all? This is the main question that my current research project addresses through critical reexamination of prevailing
assumptions about democracy, secularism and shari‘a in the context of MFL systems in four “shari‘a applying” non-Muslim democracies-namely Israel, India, Greece and Ghana.

Yüksel Sezgin is the director of the Middle East Studies Program and an assistant professor of political science at Maxwell School of Public Affairs, Syracuse University. He received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from University of Ankara, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, University of London (SOAS), and the University of Washington. He previously taught at the University of Washington, Harvard Divinity School, and the City University of New York, and held research positions at Princeton University, Columbia University, University of Bielefeld, American University in Cairo, and the University of Delhi. He is the author of Human Rights under State-Enforced Religious Family Laws in Israel, Egypt and India (Cambridge University Press, 2013) which
was awarded the 2014 Gordon Hirabayashi Human Rights Book Prize by American Sociological Association.





  • Prof. Dr. Yüksel Sezgin (Syracuse University New York)
  • Prof. Dr. Susanne Schröter, Professorin für Ethnologie an der Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main und Principal Investigator des Exzellenzclusters "Die Herausbildung normativer Ordnungen"


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