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Facing the Unknown/Defacing the Known - Mahr in Swedish Courts

Chapter in book
Authors Matilda Arvidsson
Published in Embedding Mahr in the European Legal System
Pages 29
ISBN 978-87-574-2476-8
Publisher DJOF Publishing
Place of publication Köpenhamn
Publication year 2011
Published at
Pages 29
Language en
Keywords Mahr, islamic law, conflict of laws, courts, the Swedish judiciary
Subject categories Philosophy, Ethics and Religion, Law


The chapter is concerned with the place of Muslim family law in the Swedish national legal system. The particular focus is on Swedish general courts facing Muslim family law in terms of the Islamic legal concept of mahr. In the text mahr serves as an example of Muslim family law, such as it appears in Sweden, and in its encounter with the Swedish national legal system. In a critical analysis of the exclusion at Swedish courts of Islamic law and legal concepts practiced within the Swedish national jurisdiction, I argue that Swedish courts do not face the ‘unknown’ when Muslim family law and legal concepts are brought to court by parties. Rather, they ‘deface’ – fail (or refuse) to recognize – well known Muslim legal practices that have been prevalent in Sweden and used by Swedish and foreign nationals for a long period of time. I further criticise Swedish courts for failing to provide legal remedies in areas of family law where Swedish and Muslim family law overlap: in particular legal problems in relation to mahr. Finally, I stress the need for enhanced knowledge within the Swedish national legal system of Islamic law and legal concepts such as they are practiced by Muslims within the Swedish jurisdiction. The text flows from a study of judicial culture at Swedish district court carried out in 2004-2006, a number of interviews with Swedish justices conducted in 2007 concerning their experiences of Islamic law in their capacities as judges, and my professional practice as a law clerk and junior judge at a Swedish district court.

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