The paper was prepared for a symposium on legal aspects of the Armenian Genocide and is forthcoming in Islamic Law and Law of the Muslim World.
Movsesian considers the treatment of the Armenian community in Ottoman law. He argues that -
For most of its history, the Ottoman Empire adhered to classical Islamic law, which viewed Armenians and other Christians as dhimmis – formally protected, but legally subordinate, minority communities. The nineteenth-century Ottoman reform movement known as the Tanzimat granted dhimmis legal equality for the first time. Equality for dhimmis subverted the traditional social hierarchy and sparked a religious backlash, including the Hamidian massacres of 1894-1896, which killed hundreds of thousands of Armenians and other Christians. The Hamidian massacres in turn initiated a cycle of violence that led eventually to genocide. Although the Tanzimat did not itself cause the Armenian Genocide, the failure of legal reform, and the resentment that equality for religious minorities created in Ottoman society, were important contributing factors.Movsesian has also released 'Fiqh and Canons: Reflections on Islamic and Christian Jurisprudence' (forthcoming in Seton Hall Law Review) which as
a contribution to a symposium on Religious Legal Theory, compares Islamic and Christian conceptions of law and suggests implications for contemporary debates about religious dispute settlement. Both Islam and Christianity begin with faith, but they express that faith differently – and the difference relates to law. In Islam, a comprehensive body of law, fiqh, sacralizes daily life and connects believers to God. In Christianity, by contrast, law serves an auxiliary function; it is facilitative, not constitutive, of believers’ relationship to God. Moreover, unlike classical fiqh, canon law has a limited scope and is not exegetical. This essay explores these differences and shows how they influence the ways in which Muslims and Christians view religious tribunals today, as evidenced by recent controversies over Islamic family and commercial law arbitration in Canada and the United Kingdom.