Dispute resolution in Muslim minority communities: the theory, practice, and potential of Islamic mediation
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Mediation is a type of dispute resolution in which a third party intervenes to help disputing parties reach a mutually satisfactory agreement. In recent years, individuals and organizations have begun advertising Islamic mediation services. The development of this field has important implications for Muslims living in Western countries, as Muslim minority communities have long sought ways to resolve disputes according to their personal religious beliefs. Avenues for family dispute resolution—including the civil courts, informal Islamic courts, family counseling, and informal mediation by an imam—each have distinct drawbacks. Professional Islamic mediation could fill a significant gap in services. Although some work has been done on theoretical models of Islamic conflict resolution, little information exists on the current practice of professional Islamic mediation in Muslim minority communities. This study addresses this gap in knowledge through case studies of practicing Islamic mediators. Results indicate wide variation in the field in terms of how practitioners themselves define Islamic mediation. There were also distinct differences in the role the mediators played in relation to the disputing parties, what types of cases they mediated, and how they organized and funded their services. The lack of standardization in the field may be a positive thing, however, as different services may fill different needs in Muslim communities.