Chairman of the Muslim Personal Law reform committee former Supreme Court Judge, Justice Saleem Marsoof said the All Ceylon Jamiyathul Ulama (ACJU) have acted in contravention of the good faith reposed in them, and instead have extended all their resources to stunt the work of the committee.
He also said the actions by the ACJU have had an intimidating effect on the members of the committee.
“Mufthi Rizwe and Mubarak Moulavi both of ACJU are members of the Committee chaired by me. According to news reports, a delegation of ACJU have gone around meeting Muslim members of Parliament and handed over various documents including working drafts prepared by me for consideration of the Committee under confidentiality,” he said in a Facebook post in which he called for opinions on the reforms.
Mufthi Rizwe is the Chairman of the main theological arm of the Muslims, the ACJU. He has been the Chairman of the theological arm for over 17 years.
The ACJU came in to severe criticism by the Muslim intelligentsia following an expose by Colombo Telegraph on its support to Underage Marriage of females, among other rituals and views, deemed archaic.
The legal luminary, who also acted as Chief Justice further said that the ACJU have commenced a campaign expending all resources to curtail the work of the committee.
“Already jumma sermons and signature campaigns have been conducted to object to any amendments to the MM&D Act on the purported basis that it is of divine origin, and some members of my committee feel intimidated and may tow the ACJU line” he said.
The discussion on his Facebook page was called for by Justice Marsoof following a revelation by Colombo Telegraph which said the Ulamas were in agreement on child marriage and that a child could be married even before puberty.
“Have your say! The Quazi Court is an integral part of the Sri Lankan Judiciary. Aggrieved parties may appeal from its decisions and orders to the Board of Quazis and from there to the Court of Appeal. The Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act restricts appointments of Quazis and to the Board of Quazis only to males, when Art 12 of the Constitution guarantees equal opportunity to all. The ACJU vehemently objects to opening out these judicial appointments to women. I share this article that seeks to clarify the ACJU stand, and for opening out the issue for discussion in the public interest!” Justice Marsoof said on his Facebook page.
The MMDA does not stipulate a minimum age for marriage and the act specifies instead that a female under the age of 12 could be married subject to authorisation by the Qazi.
In effect it means that there is no minimum age for marriage and children over 12 years of age could be married with no bar. The MMDA also does not have provision for consent from the Bride and females do not participate in the signing of the marriage.
Accordingly the females are legally permitted to be married at any age without their consent. Girls under 12 have to be married subject to Qazi authorisation according to the act in its present form.
The Colombo Telegraph is also in possession of evidence of widespread fraud among the Qazi’s. According to the Act, the entire Qazi system is legally mandated to be only male.
The expose, came on a submission made by the Ulama to political leaders.
Issuing a statement in November Justice Marsoof said the committee is in its final stages of preparing the recommendations.
The Committee which comprise 16 members was set up initially in 2009.
The efforts to reform the act have been met with stiff resistance from conservative elements among the Muslims. They insist that the Laws including marriage before puberty, the non appointment of females due to a reasoning that a female is not on par with a male are valid.
The Colombo Telegraph learns that the male dominated clergy have been using the Friday sermons attended by males to propogate these views in mosques across the Island.