Secular Rule and Islamic Ethics: Engaging with Muslim-Only Marriages in the Netherlands

Together with my colleagues Annelies Moors and Vanessa Vroon, I have published an article in the peer-reviewed journal Sociology of Islam on the debates regarding Muslim-only marriages in the Netherlands.

From the mid-2000s, Dutch policy makers, the media, and others have started to define Muslim-only marriages as a problem. This contribution unpacks a recent hype, when a Dutch TV station broadcasted the conclusion of a polygamous marriage at a mosque, while simultaneously the largest right-wing political party presented an initiative to further criminalize Muslim-only marriages. In both the TV program and the policy initiative, the same feminist organization, Femmes for Freedom, was involved. Using liberal arguments such as freedom of partner choice to limit the freedom of a religious minority, interestingly, the dividing lines were neither between Muslims and non-Muslims, nor between more ‘mainstream’ and more ‘Salafi-oriented’ mosques. Arguing for the need to protect women, many supported the current Dutch law demanding that couples conclude a civil marriage prior to a religious marriage, as the former would protect women better, while others called for better educating Muslims about women’s rights in Islam. Whereas the voices of women in Muslim-only marriages were not heard, our research with converts entering into polygamous marriages indicates that they may opt for these marriages themselves with their main concerns centering on the equal treatment of wives and men’s openness about polygamy.

Moors, A., de Koning, M., & Vroon-Najem, V. (2018). Secular Rule and Islamic Ethics: Engaging with Muslim-Only Marriages in the Netherlands, Sociology of Islam, 6(3), 274-296

The article can be downloaded here (paywall):

This article is part of a special issue on Muslim religious-only marriages. As Annelies Moors, Rajnaara Akhtar and Rebecca Probert state in the abstract of the introduction to this special issue:

This special issue focuses on Muslim religious-only marriages, which are marriages not recognized by state authorities but which at least one of the parties involved considers religiously valid. The practice of informal religious marriages has manifested in different parts of the world, and such marriages have become a topic of debate and intervention. In a tripartite dynamic, state authorities are involved in attempts to regulate or criminalize religious-only marriages, religious actors play a variety of roles, and the couples involved are left to navigate an increasingly controversial field. This special issue explores these issues in detail by investigating the interactions among state authorities, religious actors, and the couples themselves, and the motivations of each in their engagement with the others.

Moors, A., Akhtar, R.C. and Probert, R. (2018) Contextualizing Muslim Religious-Only Marriages. Sociology of Islam, 6, pp. 263-273.

The introduction can be read here:
The whole issue can be read here: Sociology of Islam, 6

The contributions to this special issue were, with one exception, presented at the two-day symposium Unregistered Muslim Marriages—Regulations and Contestations. This symposium was organized by Rajnaara Akhtar and Annelies Moors and held in April 2017 at the De Montfort University in Leicester, in conjunction with the University of Amsterdam. At the University of Amsterdam, this research is part of the ERC-funded research project on ‘Problematizing “Muslim Marriages”: Ambiguities and Contestations,’ grant number 2013-AdG-324180.

One thought on “Secular Rule and Islamic Ethics: Engaging with Muslim-Only Marriages in the Netherlands

  1. the main effect of forbidding muslims-only religious marriages will be driving those marriages underground, causing even more diminishing of rights for the muslim-women concerned

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