From Physiognomy to DNA Testing: Developments in the Establishment of Paternity

in The Expert Witness in Islamic Courts

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780226749334
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226749358 | DOI:
From Physiognomy to DNA Testing: Developments in the Establishment of Paternity

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Focusing on the establishment of paternity in Egypt and other Muslim countries, this article demonstrates the ramifications of any initiative to reform the traditional concepts of family law. It comments on the current controversy in Egypt regarding the introduction of DNA testing in paternity suits, arguing that this controversy is part of a larger process. Specifically, the article links this controversy to the debate on sociocultural values—patterns of familial organization and gender relations anchored in authoritative religious-legal texts—and the struggle between traditional and modern elites for political power. After considering the role of physiognomy in Islamic legal systems, the article analyzes a recent Egyptian court case (Hinnawi v. Fishawi) and compares it with the situation in Israel, Europe, and the United States. It concludes that Muslim judges are reluctant to rely on scientific medical evidence in the context of paternity due to moral, religious, socioeconomic, and political considerations and not because they doubt the reliability of scientific means.

Keywords: Egypt; DNA testing; paternity; family law; elites; political power; medical evidence; Israel; physiognomy; Islamic legal systems

Chapter.  15585 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Law

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