Thirty-five Muslim-majority and 18 Muslim-minority countries formally integrate Muslim Family Laws (MFLs) into their legal systems and enforce them through state courts. Both Muslim-majority and Muslim-minority governments have undertaken legislative reforms to alleviate the effects of religious laws on fundamental human rights, increase accountability and accessibility, and strengthen the rule of law within their MFL systems. Extant literature is silent on whether MFLs are more reformed or more human rights and the rule of law compliant in Muslim-majority or Muslim-minority countries. Utilizing a novel methodological tool, the MFL Index, this exploratory article surveys cross-national and historical trends in MFL reform (1946–2016). It shows that Muslim-majority and -minority governments have opted for different forms of legislative reform. Muslim-majority countries favored substantive reform, while Muslim-minority states prioritized exit reforms. The type and extent of reform were strongly associated with colonial heritage, secularism, women's activism, ethnoreligious diversity, and prevailing multicultural arrangements. These findings have implications for studying multicultural theory, human/women's rights, and democratization in the Muslim world and beyond.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science