25 September, 2018

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MMDA: Why Silence & Inaction?

By Ameer Ali

Dr. Ameer Ali

If procrastination and inaction are the defining characteristics of the Yahapalanaya regime then the saga of the Marsoof report on Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) says it all. This Act of 1951, whose genesis actually goes back to 18th century Dutch ruled Batavia, was borrowed and adapted by our British colonial masters to suit conditions prevailing in the Ceylon of 1806. What was a convenient and quick solution to an issue of Muslim social and religious management by an alien power, was, after independence, given legislative format in 1951, which in course of time, has become a misogynous instrument of injustice and suppression to Muslim women. Apart from certain marginal changes in the implementation of the act the substance of it remained almost intact since colonial times.

At last in 2009 an eighteen member committee chaired by a former Supreme Court judge, Saleem Marsoof, was appointed to investigate the issue and report to the government. After nine years of deliberation, wrangles and gestation the chairperson handed in the report to the female Minister of Justice in January 2018. Justice Marsoof also submitted a dissenting report apparently engineered by the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU), whose president was also a member of that committee. It took another six months for the ministry to release that report to the public.

On July 24th the Muslim members of Parliament (all males) appear to have met ACJU for further discussion. What is shocking in this saga is the inordinate delay and inaction on the part of the President, the Prime Minister and his cabinet ministers on a matter that is so vital to the status and lives of almost one half of the country’s Muslim population. Is this because the victims are Muslim women? Or, is it because the government is concerned about the Muslim vote bank controlled by ACJU? In any case, who gave the mandate to ACJU to dictate terms to legal experts and intellectuals on a matter in which ACJU has no monopoly of expertise? 

How backward looking this institution is evident from the name itself. The so called apex body of the ulama prefers to situate itself in colonial Ceylon rather than in independent Sri Lanka. It also has no place for female ulama within its membership, because it does not consider women eligible to become alims. The country is yet to see its first Muslim female religious scholar. This is in total contradiction to the history of Islamic scholarship which produced some eminent female religious scholars such as Amrah bint Abdur Rahman, Umm Darda, Fatima bint Ibrahim b Jowhar and Ayesha bint Abdul Hadi to name a few, and who taught even male imams in Damascus. It is a shame that when women are leading prayers in mixed congregations in other parts of the world, in Sri Lanka even working Muslim women are not allowed to attend mosques to perform their daily prayers.  This is another battle awaiting Muslim women in the country.

It is also disappointing to note that instead of hearing deafening noises in support of reforming MMDA there appears to be a conspiratorial silence on the part of Muslim intellectuals on this matter. Are they afraid of a fatwa from ACJU? By allowing the politicians and mullahs to decide the marital conditions of Muslim women the intellectuals are betraying the social trust and contract bestowed upon them by the community. This is yet another reflection of the pathetic condition of Muslim leadership in the country.    

The Marsoof committee report has recommended some progressive reforms, including higher marriageable age, consent of the bride before marriage, stricter conditions on polygamy, women Qazis and women members in Muslim Marriage and Divorce Advisory Board, women registrars of Muslim marriage, abolition of dowry in all forms. It is time the government stop procrastinating and bring legislation to implement these recommendations. If not, at least allow as a last resort, as the report suggests, an option to Muslim women to marry under the General Marriage Ordinance.      

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Latest comments

  • 9
    0

    The first two reforms of those proposed by the Marsoof Report (as reported by Dr Ameer Ali) are : “higher marriageable age, and consent of the bride before marriage”. These are so fundamental to the lives of any humans that it is the duty of the State to go ahead and enact legislation, of rather amend MMDA so as to include them.
    .
    Muslim male MPs, perhaps most Muslim males in the country, may oppose them and cry out that this is the work of Islamophobes. This is where convictions come in. The government must have sufficient notion of right and wrong to press ahead with these reforms, even if the ACJU cries foul. The real problem here is that our politicians almost never act out of a conviction that what is right must be done. Instead they play politics all the time.
    .
    When such rank injustices are seen, and nobody from within the community doing anything, inevitably to a contemptuous view of the entire religion sets in among those of other communities who can’t be bothered to realise that there is an ongoing debate among Muslims. This “do nothing” government is to blame for not pressing ahead with reforms, even without the support of Muslim legislators.
    .
    When the issues are so clear, there must be action!

  • 3
    8

    I appreciate some of your thought provoking writing ..
    But I disagree with you in some cases like that of your reading into role of Muslim women in society.
    Yes; I understand that a Muslim lady could lead prayers ..
    According to some imams with some conditions ..
    But feminists demanding more than that ..
    To be lesbians and club going class and more ..
    There is no problem in ladies contribution to economic life ..
    Yet; Islam sets some conditions for earning ..
    Islamic way of life is different from other way of life in humanity ..
    For Hindus or Buddhists ladies they do not have some.concpets called awra..
    But we have? ….
    ..we are more than material beings .
    We all believe in next life .
    You cannot destroy the eternal life for this worldly life of short time ..
    We may life for 60 years on earth ..
    But compare your next life .
    It’s eternal.
    When you write anything
    Please keep this in your mind.

    • 0
      3

      Why do you want to go a world there you will punished what you did here. This is exactly like your office boss is punishing you for being in bikini at beach. Come along with me. In my world, I am not punished being in Burkini in beach or bikini in office. Why are you insisting that you want to go only to the world that punishes the human being for nothing?

      Look at the Middle Eastern guys. In Middle East, they get punished for everything. So they even risk their lives in the Meridian Sea, take rudimentary boats, then go to Swiss, Norway, Finland, there people have peaceful life.

      (Stop your bloody nonsense preaching. Everybody knows how the Wahhabi money work for the Sinhala and Muslim politicians and sex indulged multi wives owning mullahs’ greed are)

    • 4
      3

      Lanka6 is a typical victim of ACJU sponsored Friday Prayers.
      He says Lesbians no good but implies Gays OK.
      Club circuitry OK for men but not for women.

    • 3
      0

      Lankan 6.
      B S.
      Your knowledge of Islam is strange; obviously influenced by the ACJU which is a relic of the colonial past and its members are influenced by primitive Bedouin Culture from the Arabian Desert; which treat women as inferior to men; contrary to Islamic teaching.
      Justice S. M. has recognized the defects of MMDA and proposed very constructive changes in keeping with Islamic teachings.

  • 2
    6

    This article reflects the writer’s lack of knowledge in Islam. Only thing I can agree with him is ” abolition of dowry in all forms”.

  • 6
    2

    Fundamental Rights are More Sacred than Religious Edicts and should Override the Latter.

    • 1
      3

      I fully agree with you estate boy.

      These fellas will not stop until Sharia law is established. They have done it in other countries and they have the experience of doing it.

      There will be no fundamental rights in SL one day. There will only be Allah’s law.

      • 1
        0

        R L R S P.
        B essing again ! Get real man.
        Which other country?

        What fundamental rights are you talking about?

  • 1
    4

    My suggestion is ask muslims women to marry from Catholics and buddhists. HArd core muslims who can not give almighty Allah should marry catholics as the almighty creator is one and the same. Thsoe who have liberal thoughts become buddhists. On the other hand, I heard MOHOMMADIANS ARE THE TRUE RELIGION AND FOLLOWS PROBABLY MOHOMMAD. mohobbath is lovea. BUT islam is fo rhate. women are our our slaves. non believers are our slaves and should be killed. So, muslims women start questioning in their inside.

    • 1
      3

      JD,

      Moslems have zero respect for women. Moslems have no regard for the environment. Have you ever seen them planting a tree?

      Moslems are cruel to other animals except Hogs whom they run away from upon seeing one.

      Moslems hate other human beings who are not Muslims. They call them infidels and have vowed to kill all infidels or convert them.

      All this bararism because of a man name Allah the cursed one. Allah is said to have been waiting in the dessert when he saw someone walking towards. When this thing got a little closer, he realized it was a Woman. At that point, he waited in ambush to rape her. When this woman got even closer, he realized it was not a young woman but an old one. So, he still stayed put with his decision to rape her. When the woman got even closer he realized it was his own Mother. But he still stayed put with his decision. And when finally she was passing him, he decided to attack her.

  • 5
    1

    Muslim women, as women, as individual human beings, have certain inalienable rights in common with the other citizens of Sri Lanka. These are the fundamental human rights that are enshrined in the constitution that cannot be taken away by anyone or any authority. According to the constitution people are sovereign and Muslim women are also people. It is a travesty that misogynist and fundamentalist elements in Muslim society backed by vote-greedy politicians are preventing the implementation of Marsoof recommendations so that Muslim women also can enjoy these rights. You cannot live with dignity and self-respect if you don’t have these rights. It is a grave tragedy that the impotent government is allowing Muslim women and children to continue to be at the mercy of their oppressors.

  • 5
    0

    Dear Lankan6,
    .
    You say, ” [Muslims] all believe in next life . It’s eternal.”
    .
    Fine, hold on to those beliefs. But don’t expect the State to have laws reflecting all that. Actually, I do realise that this is the nub of the problems that Islam has with the Rest of the World. I don’t want to word this provocatively, but to be vague is to be hypocritical. This is NOT a Muslim majority state. We must get MMDA reformed mainly for the sake of females born in to your families. We know your entire community will be happier for that.
    .
    I’ve looked everywhere on this page for the word, “lesbian”. I can’t find it except in your comment – and now I’ve written the word. I’m definitely not going to declare war on all the Sapphos I can discover; but please try to understand that although guys like us may tolerate, we certainly don’t encourage. Please don’t insult all the women-folk in your society. None of them are asking for such things. I must tell you bluntly: by writing the way you have just now, you are being dishonest.
    .
    That was blunt; please try to come to terms with the fact that we, too have to impose limits on your freedom, when we find that what we regard as Fundamental Human Rights are violated, whether by the killers of Isaipriya, or you.

  • 1
    0

    JD.

    DO NOT WORRY ABOUT IT.
    ISLAM ALREADY ALLOWED MUSLIMS MEN TO MARRY FROM PEOPLE OF BOOKS.

    ALLAH KNOW PEOPLE LIKE YOU WILL ASK THIS .

    • 6
      0

      Dear Lankan,
      .
      “People of the Book” – I know that; unacceptable!
      .
      It means you can marry a Jew or a Christian; both religions were present in Mohamed’s society. He was an excellent, intelligent and practical ruler and politician. I don’t have any real experience of “Allah” – the Abrahamic God.
      .
      What happens if a Muslim marries an agnostic, a Hindu, or a Buddhist?
      .
      In practical terms, Muslim men will find it easy enough to marry “infidels”. Again, it is for the women that this has been made almost impossible.

  • 4
    1

    Dr Ameer Ali: Thank you for your stand on this MMDA1950.
    The Act enabled ACJU to amass immense power and they are fighting tooth and nail to keep it.

    According to Ali “On July 24th the Muslim members of Parliament (all males) appear to have met ACJU for further discussion”.
    We must read ‘further instruction’ instead of the ‘further discussion’.
    ACJU will instruct the Muslim MPs to tell their colleagues (Minister of Justice in particular) that opposition to MMDA1950 comes from a few misguided activists.
    Few months back there were quite a number of activists they have been silenced by boycott fatwas.
    .
    The injustice in MMDA is visible to all who do not attend the ACJU administered Friday sermons.

  • 0
    0

    Unless you cry louder and influential one can’t get justice in SL that is a very common thing and understood by all here. All I can say is that opposition is not powerful enough to get some attention, let alone solution

  • 1
    3

    Sinhala man ..
    Dear all this feminist business will go step by step to all dirty things .
    Lesbian or homosexual..
    All haram in Islam .?
    All haram do you know that .Muslims do not think human souls will become dusts as others think.
    Human. Souls are external entity..so; compared to this life next life is limit less or eternal so get ready for that day ..
    Either you are going to be in paradise for ever or burning hell for ever that is what Muslim; Jewish and Christian believe ..

    • 4
      0

      Dear Number 1,
      .
      I grant the possibility, and know that it is your strong belief about Islam being the Final Revelation. We guys don’t accept all that. We cannot possibly condone thinking which includes your right to go so far as to execute children born to you because they think differently.
      .
      Are we not on collision course if this continues to be your thinking. I’m very sorry to be saying this. We want you as part of our society, but in the 21st Century you will have to tone down your dogmatism.
      .
      I wonder what will happen when Arab oil wealth runs out.
      .
      Please, please bring some reform to MMDA so that we can reign in hot-heads like Gnanasara.

    • 0
      0

      Dear Number 1,
      .
      Is your argument much better than that of the Sinhala-Buddhist fraternity who justify not allowing the minorities to have justice in Public Affairs on the basis that “all Tamils want their Eelam”, and “Muslims are working towards worldwide domination”?
      .
      Please see these reports in one of the most liberal newspapers in the World.
      .
      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/apr/12/french-veil-ban-woman-niqab-fined
      .
      What they (and I, in my humbler way) are warning is that if you refuse to change your ways, all of us may be heading for disaster. Well, that seems to me to be the gravamen of this Hindu story, where no comments are yet visible:
      .
      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-story-of-a-tamil-boys-revenge/
      .
      The problem is inherent to all religions when you don’t allow a slight skepticism about the literal truth about your faith to creep in. Let God decide certain things in his own good time. Like Abou ben Adham, let us speak more low, and just claim to love our fellow humans.

  • 3
    0

    1. Introducing firmly the ways of giving Mahar and no selling girls for Dowry should be stressed
    2. Age of marriage for men and women be made 18 or above.
    3. The dowry mongers are not eligible to comment on MMDA
    4. Half baked Muslims and so called academics should learn Sharia and Islamic women’s rights as
    as the guidance given by Prophet.
    5. Gays and fun lovers who end up in HELL would comment negatively on Muslim women and their
    rights.
    6. Let us all pray for a Act that will respect women’s rights within the limitations of Sharia Law.

    • 1
      0

      Samad,
      .
      I appreciate your honesty

  • 1
    0

    MMDA – Why silence & inaction

    Weakness & corrupt nature of government/s.

  • 1
    1

    Sinahala man ..
    I do not support dogma that are irrational ..
    But tell me ..
    Where did you come from ?
    Where do you go after dealth?
    Your culture and religions do not have any answer for this .
    Does it mean no other religions do not have ?
    Read Islam with open mind you will find ?

    • 1
      0

      Dear Number 1,
      .
      I know that orthodox Islam dogmatically asserts certain beliefs relating to those questions that you have posed. You have certain beliefs. As things stand you are allowed to pass on those beliefs to your children. Actually it goes further than that. The State Establishment actually encourages each of the four religions to be found in Sri Lanka to “brainwash” the young in to the parents way of thinking.
      .
      Please don’t get scared by the word “brainwashed” which is loaded with emotive content. I know what will be acceptable to the majority of Sri Lankan adults. I don’t advocate dropping Religious Instruction for teaching Social Values plus Comparative Religion. Those are what I give my children – as a result of which they are not, among other things, Islamophobes. I’d recommend them for all – and they would lead to greater harmony, but I can’t see the possibility during even the 21st Century.
      .
      Will continue . . .

    • 0
      0

      .
      Continuing:
      .
      Dear Number 1,
      .
      Today, with knowledge of all sorts pouring in to our minds, and us being unable to understand it all, I think that we’re getting ever more conscious of the brevity of life.
      .
      I have read the whole of the Koran with an open mind. In an English translation, obviously. I read quite a lot of these debates, even now. I contribute – it may be heresies, but at least I avoid arousing hatreds. I feel that is enough.
      .
      I have been partly conditioned by different faiths and philosophies. I don’t expect you to change any of the “things” that are really important to you. I don’t prescribe other religions to be compulsorily studied by you. I’ve only been asking that you should treat women as equals.
      .
      About what you talked about earlier: I have an emotional reaction against gay activity, but I feel that such a reaction doesn’t stand up to reason. Today, medical people make out that homosexuality is genetic. May be. It doesn’t really interest me.
      .
      Lesbianism seems less repulsive to me; perhaps because the female body is more fascinating! Why not let it rest at that?

  • 2
    2

    Ameer Ali

    “By allowing the politicians and mullahs to decide the marital conditions of Muslim women the intellectuals are betraying the social trust and contract bestowed upon them by the community.

    This is yet another reflection of the pathetic condition of Muslim leadership in the country.”

    You being an intellectual, why don’t you come back to Sri Lanka and lead the community instead of hurling stones at the ACJU and others from a safe distance in Australia? As lecturing has been your career, it is very easy to lecture from afar, isn’t it, old man?

    Please do the Muslim community in Sri Lanka a favour. Stop using the public media to lecture to the community from Australia and mind your own business, if you cannot come here. Is it too much to expect from you?

    • 1
      0

      If Ameer Ali moved into the house next door to yours, would you feel more inclined to agree with his suggestions?

      • 2
        1

        E L

        As the first step, he must come here. If you know him, try persuading him to come here.

        • 1
          0

          Why should he come here? Did Prophet Mohamed ever come to Sri Lanka (or by whatever name by which it was known then) to preach?

    • 0
      0

      Dear Muhandiram,
      .
      At least the old man is hurling stones at extremists. What are you doing about the serious problems that beset our community in Sri Lanka?

  • 1
    1

    E L

    I was replying to your post regarding your assumption about A. A. moving next door to me.

  • 1
    0

    In short, Ameer Ali may be a Western educated professor but he is not an expert in Islam. He has the right to criticize anything but his knowledge on Islam is zero. So Ameer Ali stay where you are.

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