Book Review: An Introductory Western View of Contesting Justice

By Ari Iaccarino, VT, USA.
Ahmed Souaiaia brings a plethora of issues to light, such as human rights for Muslim women in religious and secular nations, gender roles in upholding inequality between the sexes, the reality that reformation in law only caters to those who have the money to hire a lawyer, and many more issues that could never be addressed in one review. Although the book frames the above issues around inheritance and polygamy for Muslims, it allows a reader who may not be as versed to peer into the psyche of law based around the Qur'an and Islamic tradition. If the reader knows the general background of the prophet Muhammad, then Souaiaia's Contesting Justice will be a dense, but comprehensive read that will expose the other side of the coin in our western perception of Islam. 
A wonderful example of introductory comprehensibility is Souaiaia's explanation of the ambiguity of legal decisions based on interpretation within the Qur'an and Islamic law by using real situations from past official judgments within the U.S. For example, freedom of speech is a constitutional right in the U.S.A. because the First Amendment explicitly protects it. On the other hand, abortion rights are not an explicitly stated constitutional right. Because of the non-explicitness of abortion in the constitution, interpretation was needed and some jurists found that abortion was rooted in the right to privacy. Even then the right to privacy was an interpretive ruling from Justice Louis Brandeis' "a right to be left alone." The right to privacy evolved into a "liberty of personal autonomy" protected by the Fourteenth amendment. Souaiaia's own knowledge of the U.S. legal system allows us to see the comparisons and difficulties of interpretive law within the Qur'an, Islamic jurisprudence, and our own system. The above example is only one of countless ways Souaiaia links the introductory reader to a world not understood by many Westerners. I would encourage anybody who wishes to read quantifiable, balanced, authoritative, and critical material to purchase Contesting Justice: Women, Islam, Law and Society.