The norms that the official legal systems of North American and European states apply do not derive directly from any religion. While some of those norms, such as some of the norms governing marriage, do originate, historically, in religion and religious law, no norms are today enforced by those legal systems because the norms are part of a specific religious legal order. And yet, adjudication according to religious norms is commonplace. In North America and Europe, the legal systems applying norms associated with specific religions to adherents of those religions are principally nonstate community tribunals. Outside this Northwestern world, state legal systems, particularly those of Muslim-majority jurisdictions, often permit religious normative materials to be applied to adherents of the relevant religions as a matter of state law. Both situations are examples of legal pluralism.
The popularity of the application of religious norms by state legal systems throughout much of the contemporary world raises a challenge for the Western assumption that state-enforced legality and expressly religious norms should stay apart. Can a modern state provide its citizens, residents and others subject to its power with a just and stable legal order by referring them to norms associated with their several religions and enforced by state courts?