Muslims are in Australia for diverse reasons and these can be a factor in individuals’ views on the place of Sharia in their lives. If people flee from persecution in a country with a comprehensive Sharia system, they may find Australia’s secular system and its protections reassuring. If they are born here and convert to Islam, or are in Australia for economic or educational reasons, they may seek to affirm or strengthen their adherence to religious laws and practices.
If Muslims want Sharia norms to govern, they must get representation in the legislature by ways of an equal citizenship – which has to be the common denominator in any nation-state – and democratic deliberation. Subsequently, this endeavour requires an understanding and definition of what Sharia is, which the article initially provides. It then moves on to ask why people obey the law, as the answer to that constitutes the basis for realising why legal pluralism is not compatible with the notion of a legitimate nation-state.
The article ends with a suggestion about how to deal with the call for legal pluralism – in this case, an urge to permit Sharia as a legal code alongside national law – which grows stronger when societies become more multicultural. Powell also examines how Muslim-majority nations in different geographical areas use Sharia and work within the international law framework. In general, Powell finds that if an ILS (Islamic Law State) country has a secular court system and their constitution mentions peaceful resolutions of disputes, they possess a more favorable attitude toward international courts.
Sharia regulates the legal relationships many Australian Muslims enter into and out of, including marriage, divorce, custody and inheritance, as well as contractual and commercial dealings. Among Australian Muslims, there exists a strong preference to have legal questions answered and disputes settled by persons with Islamic credentials.
There are many variables that lead to different levels of commitment to Islam, ranging from devout to purely nominal. Given that many of Australia’s 350,000 Muslims (Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS], 2006) are already regulating their lives according to Sharia, it is logical to officially recognise and support this.