Muslims and Divorce: Between Sharia and Human Rights?


Academic hosts: Professor Anne Hellum, Associate Professor Tore Lindholm and Associate Professor Kari Vogt.

Fee: A course fee of 900 NOK will be collected (3 lunches and course litterature incl.).

ECTS Credits: This course has been approved for PhD students by the Faculty of Law (University of Oslo) with 3 credits (studiepoeng) for part B of their PhD programme. The course also gives credit hours for PhD students at the Faculty of Arts (HF-fakultetets PhD-program for kulturstudier).

Participants: 20 (maximum).

Preparations (Course literature)

A collection of course literature (375 pages) to be read before the course will be distributed to all participants.

Preliminary program

7. October

09.00 – 10.30 1st session:

Welcome and Introduction by Kari Vogt and Tore Lindholm

Professor Anne Hellum:

Divorce and the right of Muslim Women: Human Rights Concerns.

10.30 – 10.45 Coffee break

10.45 – 12.00 1st session continues

12. 00 – 13.00 Lunch

13.00 – 14.30 2nd session:

Dr. Ziba Mir-Hosseini:

Sharia in an anthropological Perspective: Reflections on Divorce Laws and Practises.

14.30 – 14.45 Coffee break

14.45 – 16.00 2nd session continues

17.00 – Film: Divorce Iranian style by Ziba Mir-Hosseini

8. October

09.00 – 10.30 3rd session:

Professor Shaheen Sardar Ali:

Dissolution of Marriage in Muslim Diaspora Communities in Britain: Some initial Reflections in Light of Islamic Family Law in Pakistan

10.30 – 10.45 Coffee break

10.45 – 12.00 3rd session continues

12.00 – 13.00 lunch

13.00 – 14.30 4th session:

Ihsan Yilmas:

The Islamic theological Discourse seen in Light of The English legal System

14.30 – 14.45 Coffee break

14.45 – 16.00 4th session continues

9. October

09.00 – 10.30 5th session:

Marie Claire Goblets:

Tensions and Conflicts between Sharia and national Law

10.30 – 10.45 Coffee break

10.45 – 12.00 5th session continues

12.00 – 13.00 Lunch

13.00 – 14.30 6th session:

Comments and Discussions by the participants

14.30 – 14.45 Coffee break

14.45 – 16.00 6th session continues

(The program could be subject to change.)

Course description

The research course addresses advanced topics in human rights, law, religious studies, and legal anthropology pertaining to the problem of Muslims and divorce as it arises in the particular contexts of Muslim immigrant communities in Western Europe, as well as in an Iranian and Pakistani context.

The main purpose of the research course is to provide Ph. D. students who pursue relevant research projects in the field of women’s law, legal pluralism, Islamic studies, and human rights, with focused lectures, discussions, and feed-back to project presentations by highly qualified international scholars.

The research course is organized by the research program on Human Rights and Normative Traditions at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, is hosted by Anne Hellum (Institute of Women’s Law), Tore Lindholm (NCHR) and Kari Vogt (IKS), and it is administered by Lena Larsen (coordinator of the Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief). Hence, the organization of the seminar is an example of cross-disciplinary cooperation and approach to the topic, which in turn opens for new perspectives to this very relevant issue in the public debate.

Course Prospectus

A significant recent increase in the Muslim presence in Western Europe has put burning problems at our door-steps. A major set of questions address Muslims and divorce giving rise to tensions between national legislation, human rights and Islamic Sharia. One challenge is to understand the pertinent legal, religious, and social realities as they exist in Muslim countries. Another major concern is to analyze the ways traditional Muslim practices of mahr, marriage contracts, and clearly differentiated roles for men and women may interlock with the legal rules and social practices prevailing in Western Europe.

Cases to be addressed by lectures will cover Iran, Pakistan, and some Western European countries.


Ziba Mir-Hosseini

Ziba Mir-Hosseini is an Iranian anthropologist who lives in London. She works as a freelance researcher and independent consultant on gender, family relations, Islam, law and development issues. She is a Research Associate at the London Middle Eastern Institute, SOAS, University of London. In spring 2002 and spring 2004 she was Hauser Global Law Visiting Professor at the School of Law, New York University. In 2004-5 she will be Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg, Berlin. She has done extensive fieldwork in rural and urban Iran as well as in urban Morocco. She is the author of Marriage on Trial: A Study of Islamic Family Law in Iran and Morocco (I. B. Tauris, 1993) and Islam and Gender: The Religious Debate in Contemporary Iran (Princeton University Press 1999 & I. B. Tauris, 2000), and co-director of two feature-length documentaries: Divorce Iranian Style (1998); and Runaway (2001).

Shaheen Sardar Ali

Professor at School of law, University of Warwick; Professor II at Department of Public and International law, Faculty of law University of Oslo. Her major focus is on harmonization of Islam and Human rights.

Marie-Claire Foblets

Professor of legal anthropology at University of Antwerpen, and has published extensively on the topic in a women’s perspective. She has worked with choice of law rules concerning marriage and divorce of Muslim immigrants with Muslim background, and is presently adviser for the government in Belgium in setting up agreements that provide more flexibility regarding choice of law problems. Due to her work, she received the Belgian Francqui Prize in June 2004. The Francqui Prize is given each year to groups of social sciences, exact sciences and biological sciences. Foblets is the first woman who has received the prize since 1953.

Ihsan Yilmaz

Visiting lecturer, Department of Law, SOAS. He is specialized in Islamic Law, legal sociology, and Muslim laws in Britain.


Register by email to Lena Larsen ([email protected]). Deadline: 15 September 2004.

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