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Panel III: Religion and Law

11:05 am – 12:30 pm
Smith Memorial Student Union, room 236

Faculty Discussant: Paul Powers, Lewis and Clark College, Associate Professor and Core Curriculum Director

Student Presenters:

  • Alexander Maguire, Reed College, Sufi Modernities 
    + view abstract
    My research follows the variegated articulations of Sufi beliefs and practices in Morocco, focusing primarily on the 20th century. From the rule of the Sultan to the rural tribes in the countryside, Sufi influences are widespread and influential. Though I argue that “Sufism” as a ideological religious position, did not exist as such prior to the processes of modernization. During Morocco’s colonial and independence period, “Sufism” became explicitly presented as an object of contention or appreciation as the nascent nation-state quickly modernized and gained independence. In the past 40 years, the Budshishiyya Sufi order has become a prominent force amongst Moroccans, primarily intellectual and government elite. Through the proselytizing of a few key Budshishiyya members, this modernized Moroccan Sufism has been reinvested into the nation-state, garnering sponsorship by the Sultan and his monarchy. Though Budshishiyya is a newer Sufi brotherhood, its hagiography places it in relation to other historically prominent brotherhoods in Morocco. Therefore, the Budshishiyya hagiography and doctrine generalizes Sufi orders while espousing Sufism as a transnational religious practice, decontextualised from the historical roles Sufi practices played in reproducing Moroccan social organization. By analyzing the historical transformations of Sufi and Islamic practices, followed by a sociological analysis of the contemporary prevalence of Budshishiyya, discourse and practices will be outlined to cast light on the spiritual effects of modernization and colonialism. This is followed by an analysis of nationally sponsored music festivals, organized in part by Budshishiyya adepts, that rework Sufi ritual, especially the more ecstatic forms of Sufi music, as a mode of national identity construction. These translations of Sufi music practice into different contexts works simultaneously as the transnational commodification of Moroccan culture as well as a normative form of spiritual practice, a method of generating national sentiment, but also obscuring the authoritarianism of the Moroccan monarchy and its accompanying technocracy.
  • Breanna Ribeiro, Linfield College, Islamic Feminism: A Discourse of Gender Justice and Equality
    + view abstract
    This paper evaluates the growing academic literature on reform-oriented Muslim scholar-activists and specifically focuses on the ways in which Islamic feminist’s reinterpret the Qur’an by employing ijtihad and tafsir to 1) contextualize verses revelation; 2) search for the best meaning as charged to by the Qur’an; 3) compare specific words or ayats with the syntactical composition elsewhere in the sacred text; 4) and to read ayat and suras in a holistic manner with the Qur’an’s broader thematic message in mind. These scholars and activists critically analyze Islamic theology by employing hermeneutics in order to produce Islamic exegeses that affirm social justice, gender equality, and liberation. Muslim scholar-activists engage in this work to re-appropriate their cultural self-definition by emphasizing the socio-political environments that shaped the interpretations of the Qur’an and Hadiths in order to promote justice and affirm gender equality within an Islamic paradigm. A liberatory theology legitimized by Islamic sacred texts not only confronts systemic and systematic repressive practices against women but also mandates reflexive change in Islamic societies. Their reinterpretations set the foundation for Islamic feminist’s activism in broader society that seeks to eliminate social discrimination, promote social justice, and progress human equality and dignity. This examination of Muslim scholar activist’s hermeneutics illustrates that Islamic feminism is a viable avenue to empower Muslim women and foster grass-roots cultural transformation in Muslim societies towards more gender egalitarian attitudes and practices. I argue that Islamic feminist scholars’ hermeneutics unshackles Islam’s liberatory theology and egalitarian message from patriarchal inaccuracies.
  • Raied Haj Yahya, Simon Fraser University, Shari’a Courts in Israel: Legitimacy and Civil Liberties
    + view abstract
    The Israeli Judicial System includes the general law courts, also known as civil courts, and other special courts with limited jurisdiction. Religious courts in Israel fall under the second category. Religious courts are the product of the Millet system, which existed under the Ottoman Empire and was retained by the British mandate. Religious courts exercise jurisdiction over matters pertaining to personal status of persons belonging to their respective religious communities, and thus, the religious court system includes Shari’a courts that exercise jurisdiction over Muslim citizens of Israel. This paper argues that the Shari’a court system in Israel lacks religious and public legitimacy. This is because Qadis (judges in Shari’a courts) must be appointed by the Muslim community in order to be legitimate from a Shari’a perspective, however, Muslims in Israel do not appoint their judges independently. Therefore, the lack of independence in the appointment procedure undermines the religious legitimacy of the courts, which in turn undermines their public legitimacy. In addition, the legitimacy of the courts is undermined by the fact that many of the Qadis lack the religious training necessary for exercising Shari’a law. The paper contends that Shari’a courts in Israel lack the religious and public legitimacy due to the reasons outline above. In addition, the paper asserts that the personal status system presents a tension between collective rights and personal civil liberties, and could be viewed as compromising the civil liberties of citizens by treating them primarily as members of their religious communities rather than rights-bearing citizens.

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