The article comparatively maps state involvement in the establishment of filiation and the placement of destitute children into new families. It first reports findings from an expert survey that investigates four key areas of state involvement—the legal framework, the role of courts and ministries, guardianship regulations, and financial support and services for destitute children—across fourteen jurisdictions, twelve Muslim-majority countries, and two Muslim-minority countries. Overall, the placement of children into new families remains a sensitive issue because it is linked to different communities “claiming” the child. In principle, the states surveyed do not allow the creation of new families across religious lines. Using Jordan as a case study, the article then focuses on the implications of one particular survey finding: non-Muslims in Muslim-majority countries sometimes cannot have children placed into their homes. This finding is based on qualitative data collected in Jordan on adoption (tabannī) in the Greek Catholic community. The article argues that in settings of legal pluralism, state involvement affects different religious communities in different ways. In Jordan, due to structural factors, the state shapes Islamic family law differently than the family laws applied by Christian communities. This leads to the unequal development of different bodies of religious law and thereby to the unequal treatment of Muslim and Christian citizens.
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