24 September, 2018

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MMDA: 67 Years Old Law, 30 Years Of Muslim Women’s Struggle, 5 Reform Attempts – Will Justice Minister Give Into ACJU Bully?

By Shreen Abdul Saroor

Shreen Saroor

67 years old law, 30 years of Muslim women’s struggle, 5 reform attempts and 9 years of deliberation of Justice Saleem Marsoof’s Committee on MMDA reform –What is next? 

“Fear Allah! Do not do injustice to your own community women and girls” was the slogan of many of the women who stood near the parliament opposing the elected Muslim men discussing the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) reform report with All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU – yet another males only body) on 24thJuly 2018. There would have been about 30 of them, yet it was powerful, because at least a dozen of them were victims of MMDA and they were protesting for the very first time in public and questioning a religious body that has self nominated itself as guardians and has been monopolizing the religious and community spaces without much resistance or questioning of their legitimacy. Actually ACJU’s politicking goes way beyond how some of our communal minded members of parliament have used the religion for their political advancement. The most recent example is the ACJU’s decision of celebrating the Ramadan festival a day later even after the first moon has been sighted by many. 

The MMDA reform report was handed over in January this year to the Justice Minister Hon. Thalatha Atukorale by the chairperson after 09 long years of deliberations by the 18-member committee. It took almost 06 months for justice ministry to release this report officially in the justice ministry website while the report was leaked to media a few times. However the committee members are split into two and each group has given a different set of recommendations on the matters that they could not come to agreement.

There is a lot of talk about the disagreements between these two groups and each trying to claim whose report is valid and whose recommendations should be acceptable under Sharia principles and Islamic jurisprudence. In this back drop we see the 24th meeting as part of a plot by the ACJU through a cabinet minister, who from the initial discussion of the reform process has very vehemently argued, wrongly, that MMDA is a divine law thus untouchable. One thing must be stressed here is that on almost 2/3 of the issues raised on this law as requiring revisions the full committee of 18 have agreed. There is unanimity on making conditions to polygamy, seeking women’s consent for marriage, compulsory compensation to women for unilateral Thalaq etc. However there are among others at least 4 key issues on which the committee is split into two and these are core to many women’s groups and affected women’s demand for reform pertaining to the substantive part of this law:

1.     Age of marriage to be 18 as it applies currently to other women in this country.

2.     Equal representation of women in the structures that implement the MMDA specially women to be appointed as Quazi judges.

3.     Compulsory registration of Muslim Marriages.

4.     Taking out reference to sect or madhabs, so that all matters fall under “Muslim law” and for opinions of all recognized schools of thought to be considered in making orders and decisions of the Quazi Court and the appellate courts.

The committee comprises of 9 including the chairperson (Justice Saleem Marsoof) have recommended all the above changes but the other half of the committee has not agreed on these key issues and submitted a 8 page report signed by nine members and led by ACJU president M. I. M Rizwe of their alternative conservative stance.

In 2009 the former justice minister Milinda Moragoda would have had the same concerns as the current justice minister Thalatha Athukorale: that this is an issue that concerns a religiously identified community and therefore appointed mostly Islamic scholars, legal professionals and community representatives and 2 ACJU members (President and General Secretary) to look into the reform within the religious frame work. The committee has done exactly that and the 300 odd pages of Justice Saleem Marsoof’s committee report and another 302 pages of annexures in the form of Vol. 02 stand evidence to that. It draws examples from other Muslim countries’ reforms, applicability of Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh), draws conclusion based on contemporary studies here and elsewhere. And most importantly it has the annexures of submissions made by many community representatives & organisations, Muslim academics, Islamic scholars, religious groups and most importantly affidavits of the very affected women. What more one needs??? 

So Minister Thalatha Athukorale it is time you take responsibility as the Justice Minister and proceed with the reform process. Please follow due process and ensure that the draft you submit to cabinet and table in the parliament responds to the concerns of women and girls and fully respects the fundamental rights enshrined in our constitution and gets voted. Principles of equality and justice should guide the reforms. It is not only the 20 odd Muslim Members of Parliament who are going to vote on this but all 225 MPs in the Parliament.  It is going to be a law that is given legal effect by the Parliament of Sri Lanka. Therefore it is also the Muslim community pro-reformists’ responsibility to create that awareness and work with 225 legislators. Remember it is an unequal law of this country and has been contributing to grave child rights and women’s rights violations in this country on day-to-day basis. Every minute you as the Minister delay this process and call for consultations after consultations in order to water down the progressive recommendations you too are making it a communal issue. You made history when you became Sri Lanka’s first female justice minister and it gave all of us hope. Now it is time for you to live up to the expectations. We women will not settle for anything less. 

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Latest comments

  • 22
    1

    All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama is blocking Muslim women and children from enjoying fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution. What an audacity by a self-nominated group of men to exercise extra-constitutional control over fellow citizens on the basis of gender and religion. These social constructions cannot be allowed to take precedence over the universal rights of a person as a human being. That is what a constitution should guarantee to all its citizens in any democratic country.

  • 2
    0

    The trouble with trusts is that a person can be the president of a trust for life. The office bearers can occupy their posts until they die. Their are no annual elections for office holders unlike in an association. In fact, I know of an association in which the incumbent president had the whole body converted into a trust because he wanted to be president for life. He cited various reasons other than the real reason for changing it into a trust. He convinced the other members of the association about the benefits that would accrue if that body was converted into a trust and obtained their consent. Now he is president for life and is all set to lord it over every aspect of the affairs of what was formerly a democratic association. He is also a bigoted chap like Rizwe but happens to be a Hindu!

  • 9
    1

    As it’s clearly visible to any with a heart & a brain that Muslim women are suffering because of religion inspired MMDA, it must be banned with immediate effect.

    What is deserved is not reforming but totally abolishing it, making the common SL law applicable to Muslim women.

    Unfortunately it’s very sad to mention that these suffering women aren’t getting support from other communities; especially of Sinhala & Tamil women to make a strong force behind them for their cause.

  • 7
    1

    Part 1
    .
    The official release of the MMDA reform committee report has thrown sharply into focus the deep schisms that exist within the local Muslim community. Since these divisions stem from different interpretations of Islamic laws, it is highly unlikely that a compromise solution will be reached any time soon in the future. Because for this to happen, one side must actually admit that what they have believed to be the case upto this point in time, is not really so. It will take a very strong man / woman to admit to such a position. Since many of the key players in this debate are highly ambitious, ego-driven personalities, it is not easy to visualize such individuals admitting readily that they are willing to accept the other persons opinion on this matter lest they be perceived as ‘eating humble pie’.

    Take for instance the question of ‘Child marriage and fixing the minimum age of marriage at 18 years ‘ in the case of females.

    The proponents of reform base their conclusion on the premise that :
    [1] a female child remains a ‘child’ even after she has had her first menstruation
    [2] although she maybe biologically ‘ready’ to bear children, she is not emotionally ready to be a wife and mother.

    On the other hand, the opponents of reform base their conclusion on the premise that :
    [1] a female child is no longer a ‘child’ after she has had her first menstruation and that she is for all intentions and purposes a ‘woman’.
    [2] the fact that she is biologically ‘ready’ to bear children is sufficient for her to be a wife and mother.
    [3] They strengthen their premises by rejecting the concepts of ‘child marriage’ and ‘paedophilia’ on the basis that these terms are not recognized by Islam and more importantly are ‘Western’ concepts meant to ridicule Islam.

  • 7
    2

    Part 2
    .
    However sound their respective arguments may be, if two opposing groups base their arguments on differing premises, there can never be a resolution of the issue under discussion. Therefore, left to themselves, the Muslim community will never be able to reach a state of ijmah (consensus) on this subject.

    The moment is therefore opportune for Muslim Sri Lankans to assert their National Identity (Sri Lankans) over their Global Identity (Muslims). As a minority group in Sri Lankan, the Muslims must demand that the State recognize and grant them their basic rights as Sri Lankans. The State must grant Muslims the same rights as every other Sri Lankan to marry according to the General Law of Marriage. To overcome any compunctions they may have about not getting married in compliance with Islamic Fiqh, the Muslims should also insist that the Department of Muslim Affairs maintain a Nikah Register so that any Muslim desirous of having a Nikah Ceremony following their ‘civil marriage’ could do so. The couple could enter into a Nikah Namah (Marriage Contract) to ensure that post-marital issues such as inheritance are in accordance with Islamic rules.

    The players on both sides of this divide must take cognizance of the fact that their aggresive, intransigence postures on the subject of MMDL reform is tearing the community apart and providing entertainment for the non-Muslims. Rather than standing eyeball-to-eyeball with the opponents and hoping they will blink first, the pro-reformers must look for solutions outside-the-box by circumventing the anti-reformers. Continuing to do so, only serves to strengthen the self-image of the ACJU as ‘as the sole guardian and sole arbiter of Islamic affairs’. The day is then not too far away when the ACJU will arrogate to itself the role of Enforcer of Islam to the local Muslim community.

    • 1
      0

      Many thanks, ekelbroom. Guys like me didn’t ever want to get belligerent; yet certain things had to be said.
      .
      Thanks for saying those things yourself. It is best that way.

  • 7
    1

    These are genuine demands .
    What is wrong with Sri Lanka government in giving these ..
    There is nothing wrong in Islam to do so ..
    Give them their due rights and make them contribute to the society .
    They are half of human .
    Why not give them right .

  • 8
    3

    Dear Shreen Saroor:

    Just about less than 10 women have come forward to protest with their faces hidden, and you mention about 30, including victims. For 67 years with an ugly law, and we seem to have less than 30 victims for 67 years means the figures are excellent, and MMDA is not as ugly as it is exaggerated by some of you there?

    Okay, now before everyone calls me a Mulla, Wahabi or another Mufthi, I say that MMDA has to change without a doubt. Please organize such protests better than this so the message is taken serious since those behind MMDA are powerful, your protesting has to be more than that to achieve what you wish for.

  • 7
    5

    There is deficiency in Allah’s morality and Islam theology.
    – Legitimating slavery
    – Encouraging killing and war
    – Discriminate women
    – Unfair sharia law – 4 men or 8 women for rape witness (no DNA)
    – Encourage hating non believers
    – Terrorism – bring terror to non believers heart
    – Hate Jew
    – Child marriage
    – Female genital mutilation
    – Eternal hell
    – Beating wife

  • 0
    4

    SLTJ, ACJU, EPDP, Siva Sena all are government funded internal groups to destroy minorities. The minorities made to believe that they are saviours of minorities, but they are government created organizations to split minorities and destroy hem. The same government fed Shanmugathasan feeds Siva Sena too. Goverment has been using Muslims spies to write posters in wrong Tamil to Siva to be pasted in Vavuniya.

    Lankawe is a pretentious democracy. It is an elected dictatorial country,. The elections are conducted to select leaders who can plan, organize & implement oppression on minorities. MMDA like wedges, with in minorities and between minorities are heaven’s gift to these leaders. They will be ready to spent another $400B to maintain these in tact. Surrendering to pogroms is a message to Sinhala Buddhism ” rule us with pogrom”. Fighting out democratically is the only way to force the Sinhala Buddhism back off.

    Justice minister, a Ranil’s acolytes is pretending like she is constrained by Justice Saleem games. It is for this drama Justice Saleem Commission was appointed. He discharged his duties exactly the way the government wanted. He the funniest lawyer in the world, submitted a report with 50:50 split. ( What a shameless crook that justice! ) So now Justice Minister is saying it is not we are elected by people, it Justice Saleem only elected with authority. So we, Justice Ministry cannot break his report and act. The dirty rascal in the government never acted on anything by advisors, environmentalist, experts, lawyers, but pretending here that she can’t break away from the Crook Jurice Saleem’s report.

  • 6
    5

    Ex.m
    You check you head with a good doctor .
    If you blind about your reading of Islam …it is not Allah or Islam to blame .
    F.k people like you good it wrong ..
    To read Islamic teaching you need some level of qualifications and skills ..
    Islam to be read by non- Muslim and not experts ..
    Is like seeking remady it cure for your illness from non expert medical profession ..
    You need to read or learn about Islam with good teachers so you will know the truth .
    Wait and see until you last breath when Angel of death come to you…
    Islam has seen devils like you many in history

  • 3
    1

    Shreen Saroor: So as the muslim law limits women as human beings, why do you muslims keep on attached to the religion and get screwed up. why don’t you go to other religions or marry under other religions ? For example, Catholics also believ Allmighty, and the rules are not inhuman to women. Buddhist does not have any laws to limit men or women except saying be nice to each other look after each other and do not engage in adultery.

    • 1
      0

      JD:

      If it pains due a wound on your leg, would you prefer amputating the leg to get a prosthetic one or curring the wound?

      Thanks

      • 0
        0

        FATHIMA ISlam is a late intrusion into MohommAdian religion which is peaceful and promot ethe love to god. ISlam is discrminatory against women which is arab Tribal custom of needing more men to fight Tribal wars. Women children were also buried alive. It was the same with non-believers. So, decide whether your wound is a cancer or not and whether it needs amputation.

        • 0
          0

          “Women children were also buried alive” – Don’t mess up the history. It is in India female babies were buried alive.

          How can you say that Islam and Arab Tribal custom are the same? This itself says that you are trying to criticize something that you have not fully understood.

    • 0
      0

      Dear JD,
      .
      It is all very well for us to tell Shreen Saroor such things, and hopefully, in her case, let us hope that her close relatives are gentle and tolerant.
      .
      However, the fact is that some Muslims interpret their religion such that they say that apostasy is punishable with death. They can try going in to other religions, and get murdered for doing so. Fortunately, such things rarely happen in Sri Lanka, but they do in countries to the North of us.
      .
      It is terribly difficult to argue with some Muslims. Allah appears to belong entirely to them. In theory, every word of Wisdom that they utter is the immutable word of God.

      • 0
        1

        Dear Sinhala_Man, you are trying your best not to be a “Sinhala_man” yet it seems your genes do not support your motive.

        Good luck

        • 1
          0

          Dear Fathima,
          .
          We operate too much with stereotypes. The World unfortunately seems to have decided that most Sinhalese are unreasonable. To me, being a human being is much more important than what genes I carry within those of the species homo sapiens.
          .
          Yes, many illiberal Sinhalese get worked up sometimes that I use this handle and comment. Hopefully, my presence allows you to take a not entirely hostile jab at me, and release your pent up emotions. I’m sure that you are not a bad egg!
          .
          However, everything that I write about is sincere; they may not always be effective. I really think that MMDA ought to be reformed to suit the Sri Lankan society that we have today.
          .
          I’m sure that there are many moderate Sinhalese who feel that way I do, but remain silent.

  • 1
    0

    ACJU clearly has a strong hold on Lankan Muslim MPs. ACJU in turn is directed from overseas. ACJU orders Muslim MPs to keep quiet on MMDA and they do. JCTU can order social boycott of activists.
    Social consciousness among Muslim MPs? Take for example Rishard Bathutheen. The man has no time for MMDA but he recently got Prof Seeni MM Ismail into parliament as a list MP. This Seeni is under investigation by UGC for wrong-doings (read corruption/nepotism/impunity) during his tenure as VC, South Eastern University.
    .
    MMDA1950 violates fundamental rights and human rights. This must be raised with UNHRC. Diaspora Lankan Muslims will not, nor will Imran Khan. There are NGOs able and willing.
    It will be prudent on the part of Lankan Justice Minister to take meaningful action and avoid UNHRC.

  • 2
    0

    If there’s an agitation of Sinhala women (or non-Muslim), thousands of them would be seen in the streets even though they enjoy almost equal state.

    Generally the grip of Sinhala men over their women is far below in comparison to Muslim men’s grip over their women.

    But just a handful of Muslim women are fighting for rights & against discrimination.

    What’s the reason for this lack of interest of winning freedom?

    Doesn’t that mean that Muslim men have totally removed their freedom seeking gene?

    What a terrible crime?

    It’s not drug dealers only should be put into death but also these criminals.

    • 1
      1

      Real Revolutionist:

      In Iraq and then in Arab-Spring US and the West did the same that is to pinch the population to fight for freedom – And now we know what happened to them and sort of freedom being enjoyed by them. What you’re suggesting here is the same, like the old saying, trying to fix something that is working.

      Like brother, Rishard said, 30 victim protesting for 67 years means virtually there is no issue as per them and they seem to be happy.

      Perhaps, if Muslim women start to work for state sector and be burden on tax payers and a trouble for innocent public, they will learn to protest better for anything and everything :-)

      • 1
        0

        Fathima
        You’re in a different track.

        Probably there’s a gap between US intentions in other countries & non-Muslims’ intentions & interests in their own country, Sri Lanka.

        Non – Muslim Sri Lankans are interested in re-fixing something that’s working inappropriately according to accepted & expected natural behavior pattern of women.

        In civilized society men & women are equal; the difference is women are more active/ responsible to communicate kindness, love & compassion.

        “They seem to be happy” means they seem to be unhappy too but strongly moulded, religion inspired, lifestyle which is laid under heavy male dominance is reluctant to change as they’ve been compelled to accept what’s been given is what’s deserved for them.

        Yes, we’d like to see Muslim women protesting but it’s always better to see generous Muslim men change their hardliner mood & offer maximum freedom for their females & let them mix up with non Muslim men & women as other communities offer for their female counterparts.

        Sorry to say that what you say about working & taxing doesn’t have relevance to the topic.
        : -)

        • 0
          1

          RR:

          “Non – Muslim Sri Lankans are interested in re-fixing something that’s working inappropriately according to accepted & expected natural behavior pattern of women” – Kindly please fix all your basic issues before try to concentrate on others, otherwise you would not have enough time to get yourself in the track.

          “In civilized society men & women are equal” – We are in SL, will talk about SL please.

          In a civilized society / country, not just women, even men from different religious backgrounds are equal. Why can’t we get that right in SL as putting men of different religions are the easiest things to achieve first. Why not Muslim / Tamil men get the equal opportunity in key areas and state-sector placements? Does out constitution allow a non-Buddhist man to be a president?

  • 0
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 3
    1

    ACJU is a bogus organization and an accident of the colonial past. Most of the members of this outfit are political hacks with bogus religious knowledge, qualifications and has caused much damage to Muslim women over the years.Justice S M has wisely recognized the defects of MMDA 1950 i.e. violation of fundamental and human rights and offered solutions.
    The First Female Justice Minister should consider the reforms as urgent and get the attention of the Parliament for an urgent vote and get the praise of all Sri Lankans.

  • 1
    0

    Uphold and value right of a citizen supreme to that of a state, organisation, religion or government. People of such societies do not need religious or political interventions in delivering what is just. The irony of ours is the belief (or rather learning) that the rights of a society or religion is supreme to that of the individual citizen. In this regard it seems our thinking is still in stone-age.

    Isn’t a religiously blind mob like ACJU who drafted the MMDA?
    Isn’t our constitution safeguards the fundamental rights of her citizen?
    I simply can not fathom why this stupid deliberation is needed in first place – to please whom?

    Good on this brave women and the writer Shreen who stood up for what is ‘right’. I remember a photo which circulated some time back (on a different issue) with a school girl holding a placard saying ‘I don’t like it because it is not right’.

    That is all one needs to see and feel.

  • 0
    2

    Sri Lankan Muslim men and women are a peaceful lot. Muslims do not interfere in Buddhist, Christian or Hindu religious matters. How can other religious groups or persons can interfere in a sensitive Islamic matter like this? Islam do not recognise equal right principle for men and women. Men are given more rights than women on certain matters. Women are given more rights than men in some other matters. Physiologically and psychologically they are not equals. In the real world if they are equals why cricket is only for males? why can’t there be mixed cricket matches? In the FIFA world cup why females didn’t participate? Why all bus drivers are males? Why females do not go out alone in the night? I am not just talking only Muslim women. Islam is a life code: a way of life. Under human rights of a country a women is entitled to wear any thing even a bikini and walk around but Islam has laid down rules to follow which are mandatory on every Muslim.

    You just type google and check for fastest growing religion in Europe, US and Australia you will know the status of “Bad religion” in the world

    • 1
      0

      Orabi Pasha

      It’s all about women’s rights, not @ all of Islam.

      Psychologically & physiologically everybody is different; all are individuals.

      Open your eyes & see both men & women play football & cricket. Thank you for your idea of forming mixed teams.

      See carefully, in our villages boys & girls mix up to play any game ( except girls of Muslim families because of fools like you).

      The problem of Islam is, it protects fools like you & supports discriminating women.

      • 1
        0

        Real Revolutionist:

        Why can’t women buy alcohol in SL? Why do we have just a few women in our parliament? Why can’t a woman walk on the roads alone after 10pm when men have no issues in SL? You are seeing women go out to work and think that they enjoy freedom while the fact is that they help support frun their families financially, and in most cases men are drug addicts or alcoholics who do not support family, kids education etc

        • 0
          0

          Fathima
          “Why can’t women buy alcohol in SL?”

          Alcohol is a bad thing, even men should not be allowed to buy it (my personal opinion)
          Motherhood is precious, so we don’t want to see them in bad place.

          “Why do we have just a few women in parliament”

          It’s not men or women in our parliament, it’s people we send there.

          People should not be divided as men & women unless there’s a paramount importance..

          “Why can’t women walk on roads after 10 PM”

          There’s no legal barrier, if they have legs they can walk, however because of the increase of bad people both men & women face difficulties when walk alone by night.
          It’s up to police to solve it.

          “You’re seeing ………….”

          Anybody works to earn money or render a service or for both. When you work & earn money it gives you economic power & pride so need not beg for even the spouse.

          If you depend on spouse he/she might direct you, like, do this one don’t do that one. etc. means you lose freedom. That’s why a lot of women work, not just to support family because of drunkard hub.

          Muslim men discourage women to go out & work because of jealousy & fear.

          It might be the reason for men (especially Muslim men) to force their wives to be housewives.
          Housewives work but don’t earn a salary. Isn’t it slavery?

          Drug addicts must be rehabilitated; drug dealers must caught & appropriately dealt with.
          If countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan stop drug trade there’ll not be drug addicts in SL

      • 0
        0

        Real Revolutionist

        Really I should not reply to your foolish idiotic comments.

        You didn’t see in Muslim villages Muslim girls and boys playing together?
        You didn’t address to my comments instead you are talking irrelevant rubbish.
        You didn’t still check for fastest growing religion (in your view fools) in the world in google?

        • 0
          0

          Orabi Pasha

          It’s not my past time to hurt people.

          Now you’re hurt & I’ m hpy & sad.

          Sad because you’re hurt.

          Happy because I guess you’ll re-think about my irrelevant rubbish one day.

          Yes, humanity is degrading so what you say may be right; paving the way for male dominance polygamy etc.

    • 4
      0

      Fundamental Rights are More Sacred than Religion!

    • 0
      0

      Orabi Pasha, are you still living in 19th century, there are female Cricket, female football and there are female pilots etc. Time travel and come back to 21st century mate…

  • 0
    1

    MMDA is acceptable even if it is 67 years old. Merely the so called Muslim women and misled women should argue with facts. The bloody Ex_M who has no sense of true Islam should not come with silly ideas propaged by anti-Muslims. It seems these women (I cannot call the as Muslim women) have a need to play fun like other free women who can even have 100 men. Funny learn true Islam wound will heal and the path to heaven will open. Else they are destined to hell by themselves. I do agree that Age of Marriage may be changed to 18. Not others.

    • 0
      0

      Samad A. expresses a typical ACJU Friday sermon ~ “…It seems these women (I cannot call the as Muslim women) have a need to play fun like other free women who can even have 100 men”.
      Does Islam allow men to have 100 women? The answer is “NO”. Samad lets Islam down.
      Samad must unlearn the misogyny he picked up from ACJU.

    • 0
      1

      Samad:

      Yes, these MMDA fighters are others’ time wasters. They do this to show off that they are fighters and activists.

  • 0
    0

    Liberal values affecting the behavior of men and women seem to grow and prevail world wide.

    • 0
      0

      Raja Senanayake

      “Liberal values affecting the behavior of men and women seem to grow and prevail world wide.”

      What is your point?
      Would you along with religious/morality police like to publicly scrutinize private parts of men and women through out the world?

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