Last Week, Professor Robin Wilson, the Class of 1958 Law Alumni Professor of Law, commented on The Volokh Conspiracy, a popular legal blog frequented by many of today’s top legal scholars.
In the post, which can be read in its entirety here, Professor Wilson discusses the Greek Family Law reforms that, among other things, abolished the practice of allowing Sharía law to govern family matters for a Muslim enclave of over 110,000 living in Western Thrace. Before this change, fundamentalist religious rules were given the force of law by delegating jurisdiction to religious groups to decide family disputes, with nominal State oversight. Under Islamic law, if a wife wanted a divorce, she “must compensate her husband for the termination of the marriage … by returning the dower … and by waiving her right to alimony or even her right to the custody of the children.” If the husband did not agree to the divorce, the wife could terminate the marriage only for important reasons pertaining to the husband’s fault. This led to many women remaining trapped in a non-function marriage.
Professor Wilson also touched upon this practice, which occurs in Great Britain. There are currently has eighty-five Sharía courts operating within its borders, affecting its more than 1.5 million Islamic residents. These Islamic tribunals capitalize on Great Britain’s Arbitration Act, pursuant to which the judgments reached in binding arbitration are civilly enforced.
Prof. Wilson ultimately concludes that the movement to introduce religious fundamentalism into the family can have dire consequences for women and children who are deserving of the State’s protection, as Greece recognized this week.