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Dilemmas of Civil Tribunals in Formulating Their Positions toward Religious Tribunals

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The Case of Custody of Muslim Children

The paper addresses the dilemmas of civil-secular tribunals when formulating a position toward decisions of religious tribunals with regard to the custody of children. The paper examines the approach of the Israeli Supreme Court toward rulings of Sharia and rabbinical courts, comparing them with similar tensions in the US, Canada, and the UK. Civil courts appear to be entirely committed to civil, non-religious law. Religious tribunals, however, although committed to act in accordance with the fundamental principles of state civil law, are also obligated to act in accordance with religious law. The paper argues that the extent of the above tension is much more limited than it appears at first glance. There is an attempt to reconcile the need to protect women and children on one hand with freedom of religion, multiculturalism, and the rights of ethnic minorities and immigrants, on the other.

Affiliations: 1: Law Faculty, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, ; 2: Haim Striks School of Law, The College of Management, Israel,


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