Publication Date



47 p. ; An outstanding student paper selected as a Honors Paper.


Asylum has been denied to Muslim women fleeing persecution under shari\'ah law in some countries because they failed to link the persecution to one of the enumerated grounds: race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. These women often face extreme persecution including strict proscriptions on dress, behavior, work and educational opportunities and ability to marry and divorce. Trying to fit into the rigid refugee definition, many female asylum seekers have sought to fit their claim within the "membership in a social group" or "political opinion" category. This has been met with limited success. Muslim women fleeing persecution under Shari\'ah law, however, may also seek asylum based upon persecution on account of religion. This paper will explore how women suffering persecution under Shari\'ah law may use the religious persecution category to assert a claim for asylum. Section II will start by looking at modern U.S. refugee law and the legal obstacles that applicants must overcome in order the receive asylum. Section III will focus on religious persecution and previous claims to asylum brought by Muslim women. In section IV I will examine the development of Shari\'ah law and explain how a claim of religious persecution can be asserted for actions conducted under certain codified laws. Finally, in section V, I will focus on specific examples of Shari\'ah-based persecution in Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan and discuss how a claim of asylum may be asserted in those circumstances.


University of New Mexico School of Law

Document Type

Student Paper

Included in

Law Commons



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