Journal Article

Cyberspace as Emerging Muslim Discursive Space? Online <i>Fatawa</i> On Women and Gender Relations and its Impact on Muslim Family Law Norms

Shaheen Sardar Ali

in International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family

Volume 24, issue 3, pages 338-360
Published in print October 2010 | ISSN: 1360-9939
Published online September 2010 | e-ISSN: 1464-3707 | DOI:
Cyberspace as Emerging Muslim Discursive Space? Online Fatawa On Women and Gender Relations and its Impact on Muslim Family Law Norms

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This article seeks to explore the discourse of Internet fatawa relating to women and gender relations and its potential implications for international family law norms within a plural Islamic legal tradition. It will engage with selected fatawa (on women and gender) drawn from three Internet sites posing the question whether this burgeoning field of communication reflects emerging discursive sites for Muslim women within a counter-hegemonic ‘virtual’ space. This article argues that increasing access to the Internet challenges historical conceptions of legitimacy surrounding legislative prerogative of state and governments as well as regulatory norms (in the area of family and other areas, policy frameworks, etc.) arising from governmental and governance functions particularly those enacted in the name of Islam; furthermore, that these ‘new’ cyberspace regulatory mechanisms serve as a global Muslim space for generating an international discourse encompassing a wide spectrum of (legal) interacting norms exploring which set of rules to apply to a certain situation in issues relating to women and gender and why. It also highlights the ‘irrepressible’ plurality of the Islamic tradition, which is not lost even in the most contemporary communication systems as each Web site analysed adopts a distinctive approach towards similar questions posed. Finally, it argues that ‘fatwa sites’ have enabled Muslim women in particular from diasporic communities in the west to raise questions and issues surrounding their lives, which they would not have been able to frame in a ‘face-to-face’ encounter due to the sensitive private and at times challenging nature of the enquiry.

Journal Article.  9710 words. 

Subjects: Family Law ; Marriage and the Family

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