Feminist Legal Studies

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 129–174 | Cite as

Imperilled Muslim Women, Dangerous Muslim Men and Civilised Europeans: Legal and Social Responses to Forced Marriages

  • Sherene H. Razack


How is it possible to acknowledge and confront patriarchal violence within Muslim migrant communities without descending into cultural deficit explanations (they are overly patriarchal and inherently uncivilised) and without inviting extraordinary measures of stigmatisation, surveillance and control so increased after the events of September 11, 2001? In this paper, I explore this question by examining Norway's responses to the issue of forced marriages. I argue that social and political responses to violence against women in Muslim communities have been primarily culturalist. That is, the violence is understood as originating entirely in culture, an approach that obscures the multiple factors that give rise to and sustain the violence. The culturalist approach enables the stigmatising and surveillance of Muslim communities. I approach this argument in two parts. In part one I discuss two important and influential books written by women who identify their concerns as feminist and who lay out the case for considering the problem of forced marriage as a problem of controlling fundamentally unassimilable and culturally inferior Muslims. I explore these works as paradigmatic of the culturalising or culturalist move. In part two, I review a variety of legal initiatives in Norway, first contextualising them as part of a larger European venture to control Muslim populations and then examining what they share conceptually with the approaches in part one. I end with how we might begin to develop an anti-racist response to the problem of violence against women.

anti-Muslim culturalisation forced marriage laws violence 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sherene H. Razack
    • 1
  1. 1.Ontario Institute for Studies in EducationUniversity of TorontoToronto, ONCanada

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