Meet the author: Professor Maurits Berger

M. Berger

Professor Maurits Berger is professor of Islam and the West at Leiden University. His specializations are Islamic law (sharia), Islam in Europe and political Islam. Berger graduated in Law and in Arabic Studies and wrote his dissertation about Islamic law. He worked as a lawyer in Amsterdam for three years and lived Syria and Egypt for seven years, where he worked as a journalist and researcher in the field of Islamic law. Berger regularly gives courses to imams, diplomats, police and military personnel and acts as an advisor to the government and as an expert for lawyers and the media.

About the book: The Last Sharia Court in Europe

What inspired your idea for the book?

In the past fifteen years, the notion of ‘sharia courts’ has been at the center of attention in Europe and has been denounced as something alien and unwanted in European legal culture. But then I was suddenly made aware of the existence of sharia family courts in eastern Greece that are part of the legal order there. I had researched and visited plenty sharia family courts in the Middle East, but never in a European country. I had to go and see for myself!

What perspectives and/or beliefs have you challenged with this book?

The notion of rule of law stands for equality before the law. For us, Europeans, that is the foundation of justice. But in Islamic legal culture – and many other legal cultures as well, by the way – the notion of justice is served by a diversity before the law: people should be allowed to apply different rules. For me, that is a truly clash of legal cultures.

What is the most important message in your book?

There are more ways of looking at fundamental notions like equality, minority, tolerance, and the rule of law. These are worthy of exploration if we want to truly understand our own European legal culture.

About the author

If you could not choose yourself, who would you want to be?

J.R.R. Tolkien or Sindbad the Sailor.

What reform do you most admire?

Feminism (my daughters can live lives unlike my mother).

What natural talent would you like to have?

Ability to recognize birds by their songs.

If your book were made into a movie, which actor would play ‘the jurist’?

Male: Colin Firth, Achmed Akkabi; female: Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Carine Crutzen.

For more information about ‘The Last Shario Court in Europe’, visit:

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