Conflict Resolution in Islam. Cross Cultural Perspectives on Mediation among Muslims in Copenhagen

af Lene Østergaard

The dissertation investigates the values and ideologies underlying Muslim mediation practices in interpersonal conflicts based on empirical material from interviews with Muslim mediators in Copenhagen.

Their mediation practices are analysed in terms of the roles of the mediator, the parties, the mediation process and communication styles, and the goal and outcome of the mediation. The empirical information is compared with selected model of mediation developed in Europe and the US by looking at specific parameters such as level of context implied in the communication, degree of individualism and collectivism in the community, and power distance.

The Muslim mediation practice takes place within an explicit value system that both parties accept and the mediator represents. It is derived from the Qur’an and the sunna, even though there is considerable room for interpretation according to different law schools and customary law within the cultural background of the parties.

The purpose of the mediation is to decrease the conflict level and align the parties with the norms expressed in the Islamic teachings. The mediator is expected to use his/her knowledge of Islamic resources and customary law to provide advice and propose solutions that will be acceptable within the Islamic norms. Understanding the context of the conflict, being knowledgeable, trustworthy, and a role model of Islamic life are important sources of legitimacy for the mediator.

Family and community are emphasised as important values, as opposed to the more individualistic orientation of the Western mediation models. Power distance between the parties can be pronounced, particularly in terms of age hierarchies, which has implications for how the mediation process is undertaken.

Holding separate meetings is an important strategy for managing power distances and for assisting the parties in not loosing honour. The parties are not expected to find the solutions independently, but rather to rely on the active input from the mediator.

Muslim mediators claim that the outcomes of the mediations are often sustainable because they are derived from the shared values that are the premise of the mediation. Muslim scholars have tried to formulate models that are more suitable to their situation than are the Western mediation models. Their practices have strong similarities with the harmony model of mediation, but are more properly considered in terms of normative and integrative mediation.

First, the main objective of the Muslim mediation is to manage the conflict and help the parties adhere to the norms set by the Qur’an and sunna and, second, the mediation process takes account the context of the parties and the wider community.