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The Author discusses the dynamics of family law reforms in modern Egypt as an instance of similar dynamics of reforms in other Muslim countries. The forces that push for reforms as well as those that try to limit them are also introduced. The Author begins by describing the historical legal background shared by the vast majority of Muslim countries, including Egypt. An account of the general evolution of Islamic law-from a dominant system existing within an Islamic state to a subordinate system existing within an overall secularized legal system characterized by legal borrowing from European codes-is given. Islamic law has survived in the modern era primarily through family law, having lost jurisdiction over most other areas of law. The Author next describes the nature of modern reforms of family law in Egypt. She argues that these reforms have been structurally limited because the Egyptian elites controlling the state pursued the policy of splitting the difference between the demands of women activists in Egypt pushing for liberal feminist reforms and those of a conservative religious intelligentsia that was antagonistic to these reforms. This policy of splitting the difference was notable in the nature of legislative reforms, family law adjudication by lower family courts, as well as in the constitutional adjudication of family law issues by the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt. The Author ultimately argues that the only way to push for reforms in family law without the constraining influences of the religious intelligentsia is to secularize the legal system in its totality.

Publication Citation

37 Vand. J. Transnat'l L. 1043-1146 (2004)