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Secularizing Interreligious Law in Egypt

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Among the fifteen recognized Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities in contemporary Egypt, nine religious family laws are applicable. There is no civil or secular marriage: the creed of the individual Egyptian determines which family law is applicable. The question as to which law applies when the spouses are of different religions is answered by the so-called interreligious rules that determine which law prevails. According to Egyptian legal doctrine, these interreligious rules are based on Islamic law and, in particular, the prevailing opinion of Hanafi legal doctrine. In this article it will be shown that the legal reforms of 1955 have created substantial changes, not of, but within the framework of Egyptian interreligious law. These developments illustrate how Egyptian law formally adheres to the legacy of Islamic law, but allows for new albeit unobtrusive interpretations of Islamic law that are of a secular rather than religious nature.


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