In response to recent media controversy and public debate about legal pluralism and multiculturalism, Manea argues against what she identifies as the growing tendency for people to be treated as 'homogenous groups' in Western academic discourse, rather than as individuals with authentic voices. Building on her knowledge of the situation for women in Middle Eastern and Islamic countries, she undertakes first-hand analysis of the Islamic shari'a councils and Muslim arbitration tribunals in various British cities. Based on meetings with the leading sheikhs - including the only woman on their panels - as well as interviews with experts on extremism, lawyers and activists in civil society and women's rights groups, Manea offers an impassioned critique of legal pluralism, connecting it with political Islam and detailing the lived experiences of women in Muslim communities.
Elham Manea is Associate Professor in the Political Science Institute at the University of Zurich. She is a Fulbright scholar and consultant for Swiss government agencies and international human rights organizations. She is the author of The Arab State and Women's Rights: The Trap of Authoritarian Governance" (2011), Regional Politics in the Gulf: Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen (2005) and Political Parties and Organizations in Yemen, 1948-1993 (1994). She has recently been appointed by the Swiss Federal Council as a Member of the Federal Commission for Women's Affairs.
Chapter 1. Introduction: The Debate Chapter 2. A Critical Review of the Essentialist Paradigm Chapter 3. Islamic Law in the West: The Case of Britain Chapter 4. Legal Pluralism in Practice Chapter 5. Islamic Law and Human Rights Between Theory and Reality: Britain as a Showcase Chapter 6. Islamism and Islamic Law in the West: Stating the Obvious? Britain as an Example Chapter 7. Contextualising the Debate in Women's Reality: Shari'a Law Contested Conclusion: Time for a Paradigm Shift