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This article focuses on the marginal extremities – the limits – of Shari’a practices in Australia, through the example of a criminal case in which four Sydney-based Muslim men whipped a Muslim convert to punish him for his excessive consumption of drugs and alcohol. The men claimed they acted in line with the doctrines of Shari’a practice to ‘purify’ or absolve the victim of his sins. While the case was tried before a magistrate in a lower court, it is argued in this article that its social and political significance was wider, reaching into contemporary debates around multiculturalism and immigration from non-western, non-liberal and mainly Muslim nations. Mainstream media and political narratives viewed the whipping as an example of the moral dangers of accommodating Shari’a norms, eliding the differences between peaceable Shari’a and its violent extremities, while situating the case at the limits of multicultural accommodation. This article interrogates the objectionable margins of some cultural practices through this limit case. At the same time it questions the limits or limitations of a multiculturalism that homogeneously views the practices of entire ethnic or religious groups as violent and incommensurable with dominant norms, while using these understandings as a justification for marginalising these groups.


Institute for Religion, Politics, and Society

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Journal Article

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