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Religion, State Power, and Domestic Violence in Muslim Societies: A Framework for Comparative Analysis

  • Lisa Hajjar


This article focuses on the issue of domestic violence in Muslim societies in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. The analytical framework is comparative, emphasizing four factors and the interplay among them: shari'a (Islamic law), state power, intrafamily violence, and struggles over women's rights. The comparative approach historicizes the problem of domestic violence and impunity to consider the impact of transnational legal discourses (Islamism and human rights) on “local” struggles over rights and law. The use of shari'a creates some commonalities in gender and family relations in Muslim societies, notably the sanctioning and maintenance of male authority over female relatives. However, the most important issue for understanding domestic violence and impunity is the relationship between religion and state power. This relationship takes three forms: communalization, in which religious law is separate from the national legal regime; nationalization, in which the state incorporates religious law into the national legal regime; and theocratization, in which the national legal regime is based on religious law.



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