(2012) JLP 65: 65-102
Like other western nations with a Muslim minority, Australia too is debating the extent to which our government should recognize and make concessions to our small but growing Muslim population. In 2011, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils made a submission to the government entitled ‘Embracing Australian Values - Maintaining the Right to be Different’, which advocated legal pluralism as the right of all Australians. It argued amongst other things that conflicts, especially ones involving family and inheritance matters, should be resolved according to the law and traditions of one's own religion. This was contentious in a nation where ‘one law for all’ has been the accepted approach for two centuries. It did however give rise to a debate on whether the nation can, or should, formally recognize certain aspects of Islamic law or support the establishment of a Syariah Court or tribunal. One of the models for legal pluralism often advocated is that of Singapore. Like Australia, Singapore has a minority Muslim population and also inherited the common law system during the era of British colonisation. This paper reflects on the pluralism debate in Australia and assesses the strengths and weaknesses of Singapore’s plural model to determine whether it could, or should, be replicated ‘down under’.