16 July, 2019

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Make The MMDA Report Public: A Response To Hilmy Ahamed

By Ibn – Al – Rushd –

An article published under the title “The Long awaited MMDA Report, A Façade” by Hilmy Ahamed has been doing the rounds. Based on either conjecture or hearsay, the article on the face of it seems to serve a single purpose- derailing the efforts made through the years to navigate an issue which has given rise to serious difficulties to those who have to seek relief from the Quazi Courts and its appellate bodies, particularly Muslim women.

This is despite the fact that the civilised world has agreed to certain standards which ought to be maintained with regard to marriage, children and equality. The civilised world which was one time spearheaded by the Muslims themselves, granting equality, abhorring medieval practices and advancing both in art and science. It is the irony that in 2018, we are yet in the process of reading and listening to the likes of the content of the said article and more, insisting that we must acceded to narratives built and acted upon by a society far different from what we have now.

The current response serves to do two things. First, it responds to the said article written by Hilmy Ahamed and published in the Colombo Telegraph on 28 Jan 2018 [1], and thereafter in the Financial Times on 30 Jan 2018 [2]. Secondly, it raises a plea from the Sri Lankan public to the Minister of Justice to immediately publish the report recommending amendments to the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (the MMDA Report), that was handed over to the Minister of Justice, Mrs. Thalatha Atukorale, on 22 Jan 2018 by Justice Saleem Marsoof, acting as the chairperson of the committee appointed by the then Minister of Justice, Mr. Milinda Moragoda in 2009 (the MMDA Committee). Notably, the MMDA Report comprises two separate reports, one signed by the chairperson and 8 others on 20 Dec 2017 and another signed by As-Sheikh Rizwe Mufti and 8 others on 21 Dec 2017.

As will be demonstrated herein, the need to publicize the MMDA Report is necessitated by irresponsible conjecture on the part of  the writer-Hilmy Ahamed. In order to comprehensively respond to the alleged, and rather spurious, claims madein the article, the claims are set out below followed by a response to each of these claims.

Claim 1: that no consensus was reached

The article claims that “[i]t is regrettable that the JSM [Justice Saleem Marsoof] committee could not arrive at a consensus among the learned members who sat for a record nine long years” [1][2]. This claim, however, is only a half truth and is aimed at projecting a wrong impression. He also claims “[t]he Chair miserably failed to negotiate a consensus.”

As was published by Colombo Telegraph [3] and Ceylon Today [4] on 24 Jan 2018, the MMDA Report was unanimous on all fronts except on three aspects of the current law–namely, the prohibition on the appointment of women Quazis, the prohibition on Attorneys-at-Law appearing in Quazi Courts and the reference to ‘sect’ in ss16 and 98(2) of the MMDA. On the aforesaid issues, the MMDA Committee was equally split. In addition, the Colombo Telegraph reported in the same article that although the MMDA Committee did reach consensus on setting a minimum age of marriage, there was a 9:9 split in respect of its scope and exceptions:

“…while one group including the Chairman want to set it at 18 for both males and females, while allowing for the Quazi Court  to authorize marriages of a male or female above 16 in the best interest of the particular person where a case can be made that relevant circumstances are exceptional. Another group led by Ash-Sheikh M.I.M Rizwe Mufti on the other hand has recommended that males be above 18 and females above 16 with power to the Quazi to authorize a marriage of any girl below the age of 16 in the interest of such girl” [3].

Thus, it is common knowledge that the MMDA Committee was equally split (9:9) on the aforesaid issues in which the Committee did not concur, whereas there was unanimity and consensus between the members in respect of all other matters. As such, it is quite clear that all references in the said article that no consensus was reached by members of the MMDA group, as well as the writer’s reference to a ‘majority’ and ‘minority’ within the MMDA Committee are misconceived, false and incorrect.

In any case, the assessment of the recommendations made in the MMDA Report must be done on a qualitative basis, as opposed to being purely quantitative based on the number of members that signed one report or the other. That would be the more sensible approach.

Claim 2: that MMDA Report submitted by the Chairman of the Committee did not contain the recommendations/report of the other 9 members, whereas the MMDA Report contained the signature of a non-member and two others who did not attend meetings

Hilmy Ahamed claims in his article that “[t]he report submitted by the Chairperson Justice Saleem Marsoof has already hit the fan with the majority in the MMDA committee disputing its validity. They claim that the Chairperson has submitted a report that did not include the recommendations of 9 eminent members who signed off on their report and handed over to the chair on the 21st of December 2017, which has not been included as part of the main report as agreed but relegated to the last without any special mention of the process. It is also claimed that that a non-member and two others who did not attend any meetings of the committee too have signed, which may invalidate the long awaited report.”It appears that the claim is premised solely on statements made to the writer by one or more members of the MMDA Committee that signed and handed over a separate report to the Chair on 21st Dec 2018. According to Ministry of Justice sources, a meeting of the MMDA Committee was held at the Ministry of Justice on 20 Dec 2017 summoned specifically to sign the Report of the MMDA Committee, but only two of the signatories to the 21 Dec so called “majority” report turned up at the meeting, and one said that she will be signing the report that will be sent to the chairperson on 21 Dec by noon, and the other, an eminent President’s Counsel, stated that under no circumstance will he sign a divided report.The fact that Hilmy Ahmad has turned spokesperson for the 2 ACJU members and 7 others who signed report dated 21st December is clear from the language adopted by in the article, and in particular the reference to ‘They claim…’ in the extract of the article quoted immediately above. It is unfortunate that the writer has decided to set out these alleged claims based solely on hearsay and without waiting for the actual MMDA Report to be made public. While this is irresponsible journalism or commentary to be more specific, it may very well be that forces within the MMDA Committee have motivated these claims to be made through the voice of the writer.

Claim 3: that the report signed by a so called “majority” members on 21st Dec 2017 is shariah compliant, whereas the report signed by the chair and 8 other members contains recommendations that contradict shariah.

It is well known that in Dec 2016, the Colombo Masjid Federation and other provincial masjid federations carried out a campaign to collect signatures to the effect that the MMDA was of divine origin and it should not be amended [5]. While some refused to sign, others who did not understand the implications, signed documents objecting to the reform of the law, and also carried out personal attacks even at Friday Jumm’ah sermons against the chairperson and some members of the MMDA Committee. This compelled the MMDA Committee to issue a press release in Feb 2017 stating that every effort will be made to make amendments in accordance with the shariah, which includes a body of law, known as fiqh which may be developed to progressively reform and develop the law within the very framework of the shariah through ijthihad which adds dynamism to the law to meet contemporary needs and challenges. Islam is a universal religion, for all people and all times, and possesses the flexibility to adapt to changing environments and circumstances. The shariah does not stand in the way of legal reform and in any way prevent the reform of the law to meet the challenges of the time. Justice Saleem Marsoof, and eminent legal personality, a one time acting Chief Justice of the Island no less, and the other 8 eminent men and women who signed the report on 20th Dec 2017, may therefore justifiably propose recommendations to make the Muslim Law applicable in Sri Lanka and the Quazi Court system more shariah compliant, efficient and self-sufficient, with the sole objective of brining greater equality, equity and justice, which are all capable of being accommodated within the norms of the shariah.

Based on past newspaper reports, it is evident that the All Ceylon Jamiyyathu Ulama (ACJU), of which Ash-Sheikh Rizwe Mufti is the chairman, has been strongly opposing changes being made to the MMDA [6]. In the midst of such strong opposition, and lack of flexibility, it is not surprising that the MMDA Committee did not submit a single unified report. Regardless of the obstacles, however, the fact that consensus has been reached in respect of all areas but for the few aspects of the law set out at the outset of this article is indeed a victory to the Muslim Community. Until the report is made public any claim that the 20Dec Report signed by the chairperson and 8 others of the MMDA Committee contains recommendations that contradict the shariah cannot be believed. Therefore, the writers  premature conclusion to that effect lacks any basis and merit.

Claim 4: that Justice Saleem Marsoof was a pawn of the activists and had not acted independently

In the  article, the writerclaims that “[t]he Activists and the minority group within the Committee claim that Justice Saleem Marsoof has extensive knowledge and has researched on Muslim Marriages and Divorce Acts across the world, while the majority feel that he has been made a pawn in the hands of the Activists.”Again, the writer seems to have displayed an inherent bias in reporting these claims. It would have only been fair to have obtained the views of the MMDA Committee including its chairperson before publishing a claim of this nature. What really is at moot here is not the conjecture of “being held a pawn”. The writer doesn’t know if he was. But what should be apparent and clear is what this group was standing on behalf of. What really were the activists saying? To outlaw child marriage and protect young girls from statutory rape already an offence under the Penal Code, as amended in 1995, to ensure that women are given equal representation in an obviously male centric environment of the Quazi courts among other salient points. What was so wrong with these views coming from an activist or any other group, is purely beyond comprehension.  It is understood that showing the western and/ or activist and/or enemy conspiracy would negate the credibility of any claim. Sri Lanka has witnessed such rabble rousing and misplaced fear mongering over the last few years. But to think that a once intellectually and culturally potent community-the Muslims in Sri Lanka- losing out on the validity of the concerns raised is a disappointment.

It is only the immediate publication of the MMDA Report that will either prove or disprove the claims that have been put forward by Hilmy Ahamed. Hon. Milinda Moragoda, then Minister of Justice and Law Reform, who appointed the MMDA Committee in 2009has in a Twitter communication, expressed his satisfaction that the Report is out at last, and has stressed that its contents should be published and its recommendations should be implemented without delay. As such, it is important for the Ministry of Justice to make public the MMDA Report in full in its English version, which is now with the Ministry, and also in Sinhalese and Tamil versions, no sooner translation work is completed, so that the public, and in particular the Muslim community, can be made privy to the truth, rather than be guided by irresponsible journalism of the kind displayed by Hilmy Ahamed. Until such time, these claims set out by Hilmy Ahamed remain unproven, baseless and ex facie aimed at wrongly informing the public.

References
[1] H Ahamed, ‘The Long Awaited MMDA Report, A Façade!’ Colombo Telegraph, 28 Jan 2018 https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-long-awaited-mmda-report-a-facade/

[2] H Ahamed, ‘The Long Awaited MMDA Report, A Façade!’ Financial Times, 30 Jan 2018http://www.ft.lk/columns/The-long-awaited-MMDA-report–a-fa%C3%A7ade-/4-648362

[3] Colombo Telegraph, ‘Recommendations To Amend Muslim Marriage And Divorce Act Submitted To Ministry Amid Controversy’ 24 Jan 2018 https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/recommendations-to-amend-muslim-marriage-and-divorce-act-submitted-to-ministry-amid-controversy/

[4] RL Jayakody and S Riza ‘Marsoof Committee report on MMDA Compromise on minimum age of marriage Quazi permission mandatory’ Ceylon Today, 24 Jan 2018http://ceylontoday.lk/print20170401CT20170630.php?id=39157

[5] Colombo Telegraph, ‘Regressive Groups Continue To Throw Hurdles At MMDA Reforms’ 17 Jan 2017 https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/regressive-groups-continue-to-throw-hurdles-at-mmda-reforms/

[6] Zahrah Ismail, ‘MMDA does not need reforms: ACJU Chairman’ Daily News, 22 Mar 2017 http://dailynews.lk/2017/03/22/local/111190/mmda-does-not-need-reforms-acju-chairman

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Latest comments

  • 7
    0

    The era of the Thinking Muslim is beginning to dawn in our Motherland. The gates of Ijtihad (independent reasoning) are gradually beginning to open.

    The Muslim Sri Lankan community cannot hope to reap the optimal benefits that the Almighty has promised through the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of his beloved Prophet (sal) if we do not accept that “Islam is a universal religion, for all people and for all time, and possesses the flexibility to adapt to changing environments and circumstances.”

    The Muslim Sri Lankan community cannot continue to permit it’s growth and development as an equal and integral component of Sri Lankan Society to be limited to and retarded by the knowledge (real and/or imaginary) of parochial, intransigent religious scholars.

    • 2
      0

      Too much of devotion, dedication, commitment weakens free thought.

      If it’s the beginning of era of free thought; relaxed religious rules must be visible & felt.

    • 5
      1

      Ibn Al Rushd,

      RE: MMDA and Hilmy Ahmed.

      Are you re-incarnated, Averroes?

      Hilmy Ahmed, Rizvi Mufti are of the same tribe, aided and abetted by the Satanic, Iblisic Wahhabi Petrodollars. They all are products of the Hadith of Najd, the Horn of Satan. Reason is anathema to them. , and stupidity a virtue.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hadith_of_Najd

      Text of the hadith. According to two narrations in Sahih Bukhari, Muhammad asks Allah to bless the areas of Bilad al-Sham (Syria) and Yemen. When his companions said “Our Najd as well,” he replied: “There will appear earthquakes and afflictions, and from there will come out the side of the head (e.g. horns) of Satan.”

      https://www.britannica.com/biography/Averroes

      Averroës, medieval Latin Averrhoës, also called Ibn Rushd, Arabic in full Abū al-Walīd Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad ibn Rushd, (born 1126, Córdoba [Spain]—died 1198, Marrakech, Almohad empire [now in Morocco]), influential Islamic religious philosopher who integrated Islamic traditions with ancient Greek thought. At the request of the Almohad caliph Abu Yaʿqub Yusuf, he produced a series of summaries and commentaries on most of Aristotle’s works (1169–95) and on Plato’s Republic, which exerted considerable influence in both the Islamic world and Europe for centuries. He wrote the Decisive Treatise on the Agreement Between Religious Law and Philosophy (Faṣl al-Maḳāl), Examination of the Methods of Proof Concerning the Doctrines of Religion (Kashf al-Manāhij), and The Incoherence of the Incoherence (Tahāfut al-Tahāfut), all in defense of the philosophical study of religion against the theologians (1179–80).

    • 4
      0

      E.
      Sharia in Islam is only a guide to ethics and not a legal code; this important point has to be understood. There is no such thing as SHARIA LAW.
      The so called experts in SL are basically pedaling a pre Islamic Arab Cultural practice which is misogynic.
      Hilmy Ahamed is attempting to bury the JSM report.

  • 7
    0

    MMDA1951 violates human rights. An apartheid society condones different sets of human rights for different sets of population.
    MMDA must be dismantled in its entirety. Mufti Rizwi wants Lankan Muslims to live in a segregated society. Lankans do not want to.

    • 0
      6

      K. Pillai
      Don’t write nonsense here. Apartheid is segregation on ground of race. No one in Sri Lanka following that policy. There is segregation but it is only religious segregation as you follow only your religious practices not others. Otherwise everybody interact with each other on some grounds. MMDA cater only to Muslim society and how we follow this is solely a Muslim problem not yours. Keep your comment for your community affairs not ours and you correct your communities wrong doings. You are a jealous racist.

      • 7
        0

        Madmokka, Srilanka is a Buddhist country and therefore any law should conform to Buddhist principles. MMDA violates this and has to be ditched in order to enact gender equality policy. If you follow Islamic teaching, it smacks of apartheid as it clearly segregates believers as superiors and non believers as infidels. You cannot ask other religionist not to comment on barbaric laws and practices in Islam which is not suitable for the present age. By your shielding your religion and telling others to mind their own business, you are the worse racist. We are quite rightly concerned about the behaviour of Muslims in Srilanka and do not want us to fall into the same state as many western countries due to Islamic fanaticism.

        • 0
          4

          Hello donkey Al-fukko, so you think you have rights to poke your stinking mouth on Muslims affairs. Then you the are the true racist rascal. In fact Muslims are coming under the law of this land except for MMDA, but here too cases that cannot be resolved by MMDA will go to civil or criminal court. In majority of non-Muslim countries they are enjoying this right. You don’t have to shed crocodile tears for Muslim women, shed your real tears for your own women. If I write how you devils treat your women here CT won’t publish it here. You idiot write what is barbaric here, I don’t think you have education and brain to do that beside educated people won’t write blindly filthy comments. So you think over 1.8 billion Muslim following barbaric law and you follow civilized law. What law you follow? Like a slave you follow your colonial masters law. Do you have internationally recognized law of your own? You idiot do not know what apartheid refers to. Segregation in religions is a fact. A Buddhist, Hindu, Christian or Muslim won’t say they belongs to all religions. Infidel refers to a Non-believer, Atheist, Idolater, Apostate etc Which one you belongs to? Crusaders attacked Muslims as infidels and heretics, still you can see their attacks in some website too. If you are not a Christian you too will be considered as infidel.

  • 7
    1

    Hilmy A.is not an Islamic scholar or legal experts in Islamic law..
    Today; each and every person speak for Islam without any good knowledge on the subject .
    He is a writer he writers rubbish things in tune with shia Islam.
    He may have been paid for this .

    • 8
      0

      Hilmy in fact is nothing. Just in the pocket of the ACJU and bunch of thuggish Muslim politicians trying so hard to carve out something for himself in the Muslim community but failing miserably at it. What a loser.

  • 4
    5

    Instead of getting rid of the MMDA, get rid of the Muslims itself. I mean reduce them to a manageable population so that they cannot overtake us for the next 50 years at least.

    And in 50 years, hopefully the future Lion cubs will eradicate the menace for good. Just get those Kfirs back in the Air and flatten out Batticola to rubble. I don’t understand why the government is waiting. Perhaps for the next 9/11 and use that as an excuse?

  • 0
    3

    Article tries to resolve the Muslims women’s problem in a fair way to Muslim women. We appreciate that attempt. But there are two issues open. One in while deporting Tamil and implementing Sinhala Buddhist only laws the MMDA was introduced. It was clear indications the Sinhala Buddhist extremists in the head of the State did not have even a slightest concern to protect Muslims Religion, but only to isolate Tamils and destroy them. So For Tamils, from Ramanathan time saying that Muslims are coming under the Tamil division, this whole drama of JSM commission only a game. This was the Tamil-Muslim stands until Ashraf was murdered. Tamils now see an independent outsider EU objecting this right violation as their claim is proven. The current one man preventing Women getting employed in restaurants is another proof. Any woman drinking in Colombo Pong Cing is exempted by Chinese Buddhist. This crony type of one law for a neighborhood, one law for a road in Colombo is not the country’s law. Apparently these are discriminatory, by gender, by religion, by political membership, by affluence…. That is the reason we call for the MMDA to go!

    Second issue is the external manipulation of JSM. Hilmy didn’t provide evidence to that, true, but it not necessary. Hilmy is trying to say that the Shady Justice was manipulated by Hilmy’s enemies. But Hilmy may have to offer proof only to that. The part the JSM’s report did not free women, for which job his commission was appointed, he had taken 9 years and the open fact a Racist like ACLU Jihadist was in the commission all are more than evidence that JSM’s reports was highly manipulated by human right violators and Misogynists. It is time for the Minister to throw away the report and act on her own to free the Muslim women or appoint a commission with proper terms of references.

  • 2
    0

    Those who support existing MMDA are inhuman, they must be given an inhuman treatment; something like depriving of civic rights for ever.

    Supporting MMDA is the only crime that deserve that inhumane thing, depriving of civic rights.

  • 0
    4

    The spineless ghost writer Ibn Al Rushd doesn’t seem to want to expose his or her real self, writing under a pseudonym which is a cowardly act. I have no reason to be a mouth piece of any one or any group in the MMDA. My interest has been to attempt at a report that would have some form of agreement between the two groups who opposed each other for 9 long years. Muslims know very well that I am one of few Muslims who have been bold enough to challenge the ACJU on various issue and am no darling of them either. I wish the coward writer would come out so that I can respond in detail to his accusations.

    I have had extensive discussions with the Chair (evidence available) and many members of the committee including some of the activists to broker an agreement within the MMDA committee. I also took some of the activists to the chambers of Mr Faisz Musthapha PC and there was major agreement on some of the contentious issues, and a much improved document was produced and delivered on the 21st by the majority group. The Chairman had no interest in studying it as he had already made up his mind on what should be said in the report. So, that is the main reason I believe the MMDA report will not see any further progress.

    I am sure, the Ghost writer Ibn Al Rushd knows me well, so I would love to take him on either via a telephone conversation or in person anytime to resolve our differences and respond to his accusations. The writer should know, I was one of the first to demand that the Muslim girls too should have the right to a minimum of 13 years of education. I have challenged ACJU in the Niqab and other issues. I can guess as to who the author of this article is. All I can say is, he seems to be a chicken and have lost all respect for him. May Allah SWT protect us Muslims from these cowards.

  • 2
    0

    It is telling on the Muslim community when dirty linen is abjectly aired in public. It seems that all the Muslim leadership is concerned about is nursing their egos.
    It is therefore far better for the Government of Sri Lanka to take up the matter of the MMDA as a national issue as it undoubtedly compromises the country’s standing as a maintainer of Human Rights and a upholder of the Convention of the rights of a child to which Sri Lanka is a signatory.
    A country whose principles of egalitarianism is held to ransom by a minorities’ parameters will never create a unifying homogeneous community.

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