This is a 12 week Master SPOC course (Small Private Online Course) that allows
for a maximum of 30 students.
This course demands:
a) The presence of students (physical or by Skype/Facetime) at the
‘Discussion Sessions’ which take place at 6 fixed dates for the duration of 2
b) The meeting of weekly deadlines for the assignments
This course can be taken by:
- Students at any Dutch university or at European universities that
participate in the Virtual Exchange project
who are admitted to any Master in Social Sciences, Humanities or Law,
and have a basic knowledge of the history of Islam and in particular Islam
in the West,
- as well as a very good knowledge of English (reading, writing and
The notion and practice of Sharia in the West is entirely new and in continuous development. In this course we will discuss the interaction between what Muslims in the West want and do in terms of Sharia, and how the Western legal, political, societal and cultural systems respond to these manifestations of Sharia. We will see that this interaction creates the dynamic that result in a new synthesis of ‘Sharia in the West.’ In order to study this new domain, we will develop methods of law, anthropology, and other disciplines to approach this domain.
Active participation of the students is key to this course: they are invited to provide examples of sharia from their own Western countries, and to analyse them by means of discussion and essays.
The students will gain insight in how Western policy makers as well as the Muslim communities have been struggling to accommodate an ‘Islamic’ presence in a mostly secular Western environment. The students will acquire the skills to read and discuss the relevant court rulings, policy documents in a critical fashion, to contextualize these readings in a larger academic theoretical framework, and to present the results of independent research in terms of policy briefs or oral advice to government officials or Muslim community officials. The students are encouraged to develop and express their personal views on the various topics in a well-founded and coherent manner.
Week 1: Approaches to Sharia in the West
Week 2: Understanding Sharia
Week 3: Discussion session “Sharia patrol”
Week 4: Understanding ‘the West’
Week 5: Islamic family law
Week 6: Discussion session “Sharia courts in the West”
Week 7: Headscarf and burka
Week 8: Discussion session “Headscarf and burka”
Week 9: Freedoms of religion and opinion
Week 10: Discussion session “Sharia and human rights”
Week 11: Citizenship, integration and participation
Week 12: Discussion session “The freedom to be different?”
Mode of instruction
Online lectures, online discussion sessions (live), online discussion forum (chat), assignments (literature, multiple choice tests, essays), feedback on essays.
Six short essays and/or policy briefs (1-2 pages). These essays will be evaluated online by their fellow students, and graded by the instructor.
Seven Multiple Choice tests based on the lecture and assigned literature of each week.
Five online discussion sessions (oral): Chaired by the instructor, groups of students will engage in discussion based on specific cases or hypotheses, resulting in oral or written policy recommendations to be conveyed to imaginary officials.
(By choice:) online discussion sessions (chat): Students are invited to discuss any issue related to the course’s topic on the discussion forum. This may vary from questions regarding the literature or research projects, to personal experiences and observations, or opinions on issues discussed in class or noted in local news outlets.
The students will have successfully concluded this course when they have a) watched all lectures and made all MC tests, b) written all essays, c) participated in all online discussion sessions, d) participated in at least three discussion forums.
The total grade is made up as follows: a) 10%, b) 40% c) 30%, d) 20%.
Required literature as well as a general reading list will be made available on Blackboard.
Leiden resident students (including students from other Dutch universities, and foreign students registered at Leiden University) apply through uSis
Other students should contact prof Berger directly (see contact below)
Students with disabilities
The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accommodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.
Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations). It is also unacceptable for students to reuse portions of texts they had previously authored and have already received academic credit for on this or other courses. In such cases, students are welcome to self-cite so as to minimise overlap between prior and new work.
Students must submit their assignment(s) to the blackboard through turnitin, so they can be checked for plagiarism. Submission via email is not accepted.