Diversity and dispute resolution

Western liberalism is increasingly challenged by the tensions between respecting diversity, protecting human rights and ensuring social cohesion. Although we better understand the significance of culture and religion in disputes and dispute resolution processes, we are less clear about the operation and significance of these informal processes within minority cultural and faith communities. We also know little about the experience of people from diverse cultural and faith backgrounds in informal dispute resolution processes that are part of the legal system. There has been much debate internationally about some of these issues, particularly whether recognition of religious alternative dispute resolution processes such as Muslim or Jewish arbitration tribunals would perpetuate inequalities, especially for women. This discussion has only just begun in Australia.

The University of Western Sydney will host a two-day public symposium Religion, Culture and Legal Pluralism on 14 & 15 September in Sydney, Australia addressing intersections between law, culture and religion in multicultural and multi-faith societies. Day 1 is hosted by UWS School of Law and explores issues raised by diversity and dispute resolution. This symposium brings together scholars of international repute from a range of disciplinary backgrounds to explore culture and religion in disputes and dispute resolution, the practices of faith and cultural communities in resolving disputes, and the challenges of publicly accommodating informal community processes. A particular focus will be a critical examination of the experiences of people from culturally and religiously diverse backgrounds in mediation processes, and what this tells us about the interplay between identities, laws and lives.

The presentations on 14 September are as follows:

• Professor Julie Macfarlane, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor, Canada, Divorce Practice among North American Muslims, and its Implications for Private Ordering and Public Adjudication in a Secular State
• Dr Samia Bano, School of Law, Centre of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law, SOAS, University of London, UK, The Politics of Culture and Muslim Family Law in the UK: Analysing the role of ‘Cultural Experts’ and the rise of ‘Islamic Legal Services’
• Dr Farrah Ahmed, Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne, Australia, Religious ADR and personal laws in India‬
• Associate Professor Ann Black, TC Beirne School of Law, University of Queensland, Australia, The way forward: legal pluralism, dualism or keeping ‘one law for all’?
• Dr Morgan Brigg, School of Political Science and International Studies, University of Queensland, Australia, Beyond Accommodation of Cultural Diversity: The politics of recognition and relationality in dispute resolution
• Associate Professor Susan Armstrong, School of Law, University of Western Sydney, Australia, Beyond Accommodation: Recognition of and relationality with vulnerable parties in family mediation
• Dr Lola Akin Ojelabi, College of Arts, Social Sciences and Commerce, La Trobe University, Australia, Adopting cultural/religious dispute resolution processes in Australia: Which way forward for access to justice?
• Dr Ghena Krayem, Faculty of Law, University of Sydney, Australia, Beyond Accommodation – Understanding the needs of Australian Muslims in the Family law context
• Anisa Buckley, PhD candidate in Islamic Studies at the Asia Institute and Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne, Australia, Muslim Identity and the ‘Religious Market’: Challenges facing Muslim women seeking religious divorce in Australia

Day 2 is hosted by UWS Religions and Society Research Centre and will focus on Shari’a in the everyday life of Muslims. The papers to be presented on 15 September include

• Professor James T. Richardson, Sociology and Judicial Studies, University of Nevada, Reno, Views of American Civil and Immigration Law among a Crowdsourced Sample of American Muslims
• Dr Jan A. Ali, University of Western Sydney, Australia, A Sociology Analysis of the Understanding and Application of Shari’ah in Muslim Everyday Living in Australia
• Associate Professor Malcolm Voyce, Faculty of Law, Macquarie University, Inheritance and Family Provision Law: A Contrast between Australian law and Islamic ideals as Regards Family Property
• Dr. Arskal Salim, Syarif Hidayatulah State Islamic University of Jakarta, Indonesia and University of Western Sydney, Disputing Women’s Property Rights in Contemporary Indonesia
• Ms Ashleigh Barbe-Winter, University of Western Sydney, Religious Accommodation in the Australian legal System
• Dr Arif A. Jamal, National University of Singapore, Singapore, Plurality, legal pluralism and Islamic law: the case of Ismaili law
• Dr Yuting Wang, American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, An Exploratory Study of the Practices of Islamic Law in China’s Muslim Businesses
• Professor Adam Possamai, University of Western Sydney, Plurality and Shari’a in the everyday life of Muslims in Sydney

For more information reply here or email sm.armstrong@uws.edu.au

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About Dr Susan Armstrong

Sue Armstrong is an Adjunct Professor in the School of Law, Western Sydney University, Australia. She is an accredited Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner and researches and teaches family dispute resolution. She is particularly interested in the intersections between law, culture and religion in multicultural and multi-faith societies.

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