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Minority Legal Orders in the UK: Minorities, pluralism and the law

Publications • • Maleiha Malik

Minority legal orders - the systemic, distinct, religious or cultural norms of groups such as Jews, Christians, Muslims, and others - are often misleadingly described as ‘parallel legal systems’. Since 9/11 and 7/7 they have been mainly discussed in the context of Islam and sharia law, and more often than not as an ominous threat to UK liberal democracy.

Minority Legal Orders in the UK: Minorities, Pluralism and the Law argues that a liberal democracy such as the UK has a responsibility to consider the rights and needs of those from minority groups who want to make legal decisions in tune with their culture and beliefs; it also has a responsibility to protect those ‘minorities within minorities’ who are vulnerable to pressure to comply with the norms of their social group.

Minority Legal Orders in the UK: Minorities, Pluralism and the Law discusses the origins of minority legal orders in the UK and defines what constitutes a minority legal order in a liberal democracy. Finally, the overview explores the advantages and disadvantages of the practical ways in which the state can respond to and work with minority legal orders in the UK, and identifies the gaps in the research around them.

Steering group:

John Eekelaar FBA
Sue Mendus FBA (chair) 
Hugh Williamson FBA 

Download Executive Summary 

The report was launched at a panel discussion on the evening of 19 April 2012.

Chair: Lord Stewart Sutherland FBA, Crossbench peer


Rt Hon Sadiq Khan MP, Labour MP for Tooting and Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

Professor Maleiha Malik (author), Professor of Law (King’s College London)

Lord Bhikhu Parekh FBA, Professor of Political Philosophy (University of Westminster), Labour peer

Lord Raymond Plant of Highfield, Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Philosophy (King’s College London), Labour peer


Number of pages: 64

Publication date: 19 Apr 2012

ISBN number: 978-0-85672-601-2

Author: Maleiha Malik