Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


International Studies (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

David Abraham

Second Committee Member

Bradford McGuinn

Third Committee Member

Amanullah De Sondy

Fourth Committee Member

Robyn Walsh


Despite the long-term secularization of North American societies, there remain people, native and immigrant, who are committed to the centrality of religion in their lives. Some members of religious communities, as a result, turn inward for help in resolving conflicts they face in everyday life, particularly in matters concerning domestic affairs like courtship, marriage, divorce, childrearing challenges, estate planning, and the like. The practice of seeking a religious form of conflict resolution is not uncommon among Jewish and Muslim communities in North America. American and Canadian law are pluralist by nature in that they permit and partially valorize such conflict resolution. This dissertation seeks to examine the methods by which Jewish and Muslim religious leaders engage domestic conflict matters through a religious lens and in a religious setting. The dissertation examines the ways in which religious leaders consider a variety of topics related to law, dispute resolution, the family and gender. The choice of law, of jurisdiction, and of venue that participants in this form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) have made are central to the analysis here. The motivations inclining individuals to seek the guidance of religious leaders as opposed to bringing their concerns to secular therapists, social workers, psychologists, and professional arbitrators or courts, are examined in this dissertation. Accessibility to religious leaders with regard to cost, mobility and the integration of newly arrived immigrants, the spiritual element of all crises, a sense of solidarity and obligation with a religious community, the status religious leaders hold in particular communities and the perceived knowledge and expertise held by religious leaders all play a role in both the choices and outcomes illuminated in this inquiry. Finally, the dissertation concludes that rather than constituting a roadblock to minority and immigrant integration into the North American “mainstream,” these clerical fora and processes actually facilitate integration, a fact of which most participants and practitioners are aware.


religious law; pastoral care; Islam; Judaism; dispute resolution; family law