20 July 2011

Research undertaken by legal academics from The University of Queensland suggests that Australia is right to act with caution in dealing with Sharia law.

The research paper, Good & Bad Sharia: Australia’s mixed response to Islamic Law is the work of TC Beirne School of Law academics Dr Ann Black and Dr Kerrie Sadiq.

It examines how the Australian legal system can accommodate principles of Sharia, or Islamic law, through harmonisation, rather than separation and segregation.

The research, due to be published in the University of New South Wales Law Journal on Monday July 25, considers several aspects of Sharia law and its impact on the day-to-day lives of Australian Muslims.

These include Islamic financial products and attitudes to Islamic marriage and family law.

“Internal pluralism is a defining feature of the Australian Muslim community and most Muslims have, to varying degrees, developed different strategies to ensure compliance with Sharia and the laws of Australia,” said co-author of the report Dr Ann Black.

Dr Black raised concerns about misconceptions surrounding Sharia law in Australia, noting that the majority of Australian Muslims are not advocating for any changes to the Australian legal system.

“The ‘foreignness’ of Sharia law is increased by media reports which highlight ‘differences’ and feed into fears about the Muslim presence in Australia,” she said.

“This all feeds into the notion of ‘otherness’ and increases fears of what Sharia family law could mean if recognition were given.”

“Whilst newspapers have an obligation to report news, these reports can distort the picture not only of what Sharia family law entails but whether in fact Muslims in this country do want parts of it to be officially recognised.”

Dr Black and taxation law specialist, Dr Sadiq’s decision to research ‘Australia’s mixed response to Sharia law’ is a result of the Australian government’s potential willingness to support changes to aspects of the law of finance and taxation, whilst appearing reluctant to consider any change to family law.

Senior Lecturer Dr Ann Black, TC Beirne School of Law, a.black@law.uq.edu.au
Associate Professor Dr Kerrie Sadiq, TC Beirne School of Law, k.sadiq@law.uq.edu.au
Melissa Reynolds, TC Beirne School of Law 07 3365 2523, m.reynolds@law.uq.edu.au