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Yüksel Sezgin on How Non-Muslim Democracies Engage Shari‘a: Lessons for Democratizing Muslim Nations

February 20, 2014 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

After the 2011-12 elections in Tunisia and Egypt which resulted in the victory of Islamic parties, many have increasingly asked whether Islamic law could be applied by democratically-elected Muslim governments in such a way that would ensure fundamental rights and liberties such as gender equality and freedom of religion.

In the Muslim world, there is only one country which both qualifies as a “full” democracy and officially applies shari‘a as part of its legal system: Indonesia. One country alone is not enough to accurately analyze the relationship between democracy and shari‘a; however, Israel, India, Greece, and Ghana have all applied shari‘a since independence within otherwise democratic secular legal systems, and have undertaken reforms to render it human- and women’s-rights compliant – albeit with varying degrees of success.

On Thursday, February 20th, the IRCPL welcomes Yüksel Sezgin to discuss what challenges these 4 non-Muslim majority nations encountered while implementing shari‘a within a democratic framework, how they went about responding to these challenges and “democratizing” shari‘a, and what explains their varying rates of success in doing so.  He identifies a number of lessons for democratizing Muslim nations, and counter-intuitively suggests that for success of democratization in the Middle East, shari‘a should be fully integrated into national legal systems.

Karen Barkey, Director of the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life and Professor of Sociology at Columbia University, will respond.  

 Yüksel Sezgin is Visiting Research Scholar at the Center for Democracy, Toleration, and Religion and assistant professor of political science at Maxwell School of Public Affairs, Syracuse University.  He received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from University of Ankara, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, University of London (SOAS), and the University of Washington. He previously taught at the University of Washington, Harvard Divinity School, and the City University of New York, and held research positions at Princeton University, American University in Cairo, and the University of Delhi. His research and teaching interests include legal pluralism, comparative religious law, democratization, and human and women’s rights in the context of Middle East, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa. He is the acting Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Legal Pluralism, and an executive board member of the Commission on Legal PluralismSezgin is the author of Human Rights under State-Enforced Religious Family Laws in Israel, Egypt and India (Cambridge University Press, 2013).

Please note: The doors to 80 Claremont Ave are swipe-card accessible for campus security.  If you have a Columbia ID, swipe your card on the access panel to the right of the door to gain access.  If you do not have a Columbia ID, simply ring the bell for the IRCPL on the panel to the left of the door, and you will be buzzed in.


February 20, 2014
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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80 Claremont Ave, 1st Floor Conference Room
80 Claremont Ave
New York, 10027
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