Shariyah & Modernity

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By M A Nuhman

Prof. M A Nuhman

Prof. M A Nuhman

A Review of the book – Women Claiming Rights and Spaces: Activism to Reform Muslim Personal Law in Sri Lanka, Published by Muslim Women Research and Action Forum

Muslim Personal Law (MPL) in Sri Lanka that governs the family affairs of the Muslims which specifically includes marriage, divorce and inheritance and exclusively applicable to the Muslims is supplementary to the general law of the country. There are such supplementary family laws like Kandyan Law and Thesavalamai Law that governs the family affairs of Kandyan Sinhalese and Jaffna Tamils respectively.

The MPL derived from Shariah, a legal and customary system, that was evolved and finally codified during the 8th and 9th centuries by the four Imaams namely Abu Hanifa (700 – 767), Malik Ibn Anes (710 – 795), Mohamed Al Shafee (767 – 820) and Ahamad Ibn Hanbal (780 – 855) based on the Quran and the traditions of the Prophet. More than a thousand years have been passed since the codification of Shariah and the Muslim communities all over the world, like their other religious counter parts have been experienced tremendous social changes throughout their past history, specifically during the last two hundred years. Consequently there is a demand for a meaningful reform in the MPL from a certain section of progressive Muslim men and women across the country and also there have been specific proposals for such reform from the middle of the 20th century. However, the orthodox religious and community leadership, basically dominated by males is reluctant and also resists any meaningful changes in their personal law, because they think that, it is divine, permanent and not changeable.Women Claiming Rights and Spaces- Activism to Reform Muslim Personal Law in Sri Lanka

Although, there is a resistance from the conservative majority of the community for any kind of reform in the MPL, if we look at the history of MPL in Sri Lanka, like in many other countries, we can see that it has been changed from time to time even though it was not substantial.

Until the arrival of the European colonizers, particularly the Dutch, the family affairs of Muslims of this country had been governed by the community leadership – the Ulama and the Mosques according to their traditional Shariah law although they did not have any in depth knowledge of that. However, the Dutch, who introduced their legal system, the Roman Dutch Law, incorporated a version of MPL into their legal system in 1770. The British, who captured the coastal area of the country from the Dutch, reintroduced the MPL in 1806 under the new name, the Mohammaden Code with the concurrence of local Muslims. Throughout the 19th century and in the early 20th century it was slightly amended time to time because of the involvement of the concerned Muslims like M. C. Abdul Rahman and M. T. Akbar. The Muslim marriage and Divorce Ordinance of 1929 was a significant change in the history of MPL. Later, a committee was appointed by the Government to recommend changes to the 1929 Ordinance in order to remedy its shortcomings that were pointed out by the concerned Muslims. As a result a new Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act of 1951 was enacted. It is the Act that is still operative with some amendments in 1954, 1955, 1965 and 1969.

Although there have been amendments in the MPL in Sri Lanka, it did not address many issues which are specifically affect the Muslim women. Now it is deeply felt by some progressive Muslim men and women groups that the MPL needs substantial reform appropriate to the present context of societal development and to achieve the Quranic principle of equality.

In this regard, the Muslim Women’s Research and Action Forum (MWRAF), an independent and progressive non-governmental organization, formed by some prominent Muslim Women intellectuals and professionals, have been very active in the field for the last thirty years. MWRAF was formally established in 1986 with the mission “to create awareness among Muslim Women about their status in society and campaign for the just and fair treatment of Muslim women in the social, economic, political, legal and cultural spheres and to form a common front for struggle and support with other progressive groups at national and international levels.”

To achieve these objectives the MWRAF has been continuously engaged in advocacy initiatives and activities, conducting seminars, workshops and training programmes, research and publications. So far MWARF has published more than twenty books mostly concerning Muslim women in Sri Lanka. Some of the titles directly relevant to MPL in Sri Lanka are given below. Parallel Systems of Personal Laws in Sri Lanka (1997), Muslim Family Law in Sri Lanka (1999), Between Two Worlds: Muslim Women in a Multi-Ethnic Society (1999), Muslim Personal Law in Sri Lanka (2000), The Quazi Court System in Sri Lanka and its Impact on Muslim Women (2001), In this series MWARF has recently published a valuable book Women Claiming Rights and Spaces: Activism to Reform Muslim Personal Law in Sri Lanka (2014) and its Tamil Translation separately. This book gives a comprehensive view and the historical background of the MPL in Sri Lanka and their substantial proposal for reform.

This book is a collection of articles, edited by Faizun Zackariya and Chulani Kodikara with the Forward by Jezima Ismail, a leading Muslim woman intellectual, an educationist in Sri Lanka and a co-founder of MWRAF. The book consists of five chapters written by five different authors and 9 valuable annexure.

In the first brief introductory chapter Chulani Kodikara, a lawyer by profession, who, works closely with MWRAF and has published a commendable book on Muslim Personal Law in Sri Lanka, candidly says that “attempts at legislative reform of Muslim law have been unsuccessful due to a growing Muslim lobby which has preferred to see reform as an interference with the ‘religious identity’ of the Muslim community and an attempt to tinker with the ‘word of God’…. Muslim law in Sri Lanka has been reformed on the initiative of male elites of the community in 1929 and 1956 in an attempt to bring the law more in the line with the ‘true spirit of Islam’. More recent attempt by Muslim women to reform these laws so as to ensure justice and equality for women for however met with little success. In the face of identity-based politics, Muslim political parties which claim to represent the Muslim community in parliament have refused to take up the issue of MPL reform for fear that progressive legal reform will alienate their vote bank” (p.1).

The book provides details of “Recommendations for Muslim Personal law Reform by State led and Independent Committees Since 1951.” Most of the Committees did not have any or sufficient women membership. For example an independent ten member committee for Muslim Personal Law Reform convened in 1970 under the chairmanship on Mr. H. M. Z. Farook didn’t have any women members. A 14 member committee under the chairmanship of Dr. A. M. M. Sahabdeen appointed by the State Minister of Muslim Religious and Cultural Affairs in 1990 had only 2 women members. The Committee appointed by the government in 2009 had 5 women out of 15 total members. The only exception was the 14 member Independent Committee for Muslim Personal Law Reform (ICMPLR) facilitated by the MWRAF in 2005 had 8 women members.

The 2nd chapter by late Mr. S. M. A. Jabbar provides a brief but comprehensive account of the ‘History of Muslim Personal Law Reform in Sri Lanka’. He deals with the reforms or amendments done till 1969 and the attempts to reform MPL after that. He is very cautious in stating that “it cannot be denied that the Holy Quran has been acclaimed as the ‘unchanging text in changing times’ and has to be followed, and any attempt at reform of Muslim Personal Law within an Islamic/ Shariah framework cannot lay down principles which are against the commands of the Almighty. Nor can such an attempt be contrary to the principles explained in the tradition of the Prophet (Sal)”. But he also says that “nevertheless, it may be asserted that reform of Muslim laws within an Islamic framework, can be achieved without nullifying the above principles, since Islamic Shariah Law is flexible enough for implementation till the end of human existence” (p.4). Although he didn’t explain that what are the principles and what is the Islamic framework, he is more positive for reform and supportive for the proposals by MWRAF.

In the 3rd chapter, the longest in this volume, Faizun Zackariya, one of the co-founders of MWRAF, a social activist and an intellectual, provides analytical and detailed insights of their (MWRAF’s) struggle of 25 years to reform the Muslim Personal Law ‘Claiming spaces and voices beyond the notion of legal equality.’ At the outset she states that “women activists, legal and Muslim scholars, researchers, progressives and intellectuals have been grappling with Muslim family law reforms and issues of equity and justice for women in pragmatic and challenging ways. However, promoting equality and protecting the rights of women in Muslim family laws has been a highly contested and uphill task. Experience shows that struggle for reform of Muslim family law is complex, as it is intrinsically interwoven with politics, identitarianism, custom, culture, religion and formal laws.” (P.13)

Although the complexity seems to be ‘intrinsically interwoven,’ in my opinion the basic problem lies in the misinterpretation of religion and Shariah that govern the entire life of the Muslim community. For example, as Faizun point outs, “when the amendment to the Penal Code (1883) was presented in Parliament (September 1995), vehement demands by the ‘Muslim lobby’ that Muslim be excluded from the specific clause which related to violence against women within marriage resulted in a diluted version of the amendment being finally approved” (p.34). The question is why did the Muslim lobby demand the exclusion clause which in fact condones violence against women? It may be because that Shariah permits violence against women although in a limited way. But what the Muslim lobby forgot to consider was the real historical context for the permission of such social behavior and whether the Quran is discriminatory against women. If we read Quran carefully we can realize that the ultimate intention of the Quran was to gradually move towards gender equality in a highly patriarchal social environment. The Quran repeatedly appeals to the men to treat their women justly and kindly. The Quranic verse 33:35 categorically states that men and women are equal in the sight of Allah, if they do what they are expected to do. In this 21st century Muslims should use their independent reasoning (Ijtihad) to interpret Quran in order to reveal its ultimate intention and universalism which are applicable to the modern age. As Faizun rightly points out “aspects of personal laws as they now exist are discriminatory towards Muslim women, and to date, no genuine attempts have been made to reform such laws to make them more equitable.” (p.34)

MWRAF, since its inception in 1986, has continuously been voicing for the reform in MPL, creating awareness among the Muslim community and the general public. In this chapter Faizun attempts ‘a critical understanding of three overlapping factors with implications for MPL reform from MWRAF’s own perspectives. They are: 1. Lankan multi- ethnic identitarian politics and intersections of power, culture and identities, 2. MWRAF’s location within a plural framework, 3. MWRAF’s MPL reforms advocacy trajectory and constituency-building.

The theoretical and pragmatic approach of the author in this chapter gives the reader a comprehensive understanding of the issues in reforming MPL.

Chapter 4 deals with the Independent Committee on Muslim Personal Law Reform (ICMPLR) initiated by MWRAF in 2006 ‘in the absence of a state-led effort to Reform Muslim Personal Law in Sri Lanka’. It is jointly written by Safana Begum and Justice A. M. Mohamed Mackie, both law professionals. Appointing the Committee was one of the most important steps MWRAF took towards reforming MPL in Sri Lanka. The vision of this committee was “working towards MPL reform that is gender equitable and based on Quranic justice that reflects the needs of the Muslim community through an inclusive process and wide intensive consultations” (p.40)

The 14 member Committee of which the two authors also were members, had broader objectives “to highlight to the government and authorities concerned the shortcoming and lacunae in the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act of 1951, what amendments can be made to the Act, and how such amendments could be made without contravening and infringing on ‘Islamic-equity’ principles and Shariah laws’ as most of the sections in the existing Act are outdated, impractical and do not cater to the present-day needs of the society”(p.41).

In order to achieve this goal, they were mindful that ‘there should be reform not only of the substantive and procedural laws, but also the Quazi Court system, including the enhancement of the status of the Court System and that of Quazis and members of the Board of Quazis’ (p41). Within a two and a half year period of collaborative actions the Committee was able to prepare a comprehensive draft proposal to reform MPL.

The proposal was submitted for further consultation and discussion at a public forum consisting Muslim Judges, members of Board of Quazis, Quazis, Attorneys at Law, religious dignitaries, educationists, politicians, community-based organization representatives, researchers and men and women interested in the subject. Although there were different opinion and controversies in certain aspect of the proposal, most of proposals were agreeable to all the participants. The authors have recorded significant differences that emerged at the meeting and also have explained the Committee’s stands.

Some of the proposals by the Committee that became controversial at the forum were as follows:

  • Minimum age of marriage: the ICMPLR recommended that the marriage of a bride under 16 years of age should not be registered without the sanction of the Quazi under whose judicial district the bride resides.
  • Polygamy: the ICMPLR recommended that with regard to polygamy, an application should be made to a Quazi and following an inquiry, whereby he could either accept or reject it.
  • Women Marriage registrars: the ICMPLR recommended that women should also be appointed as Registrars of Muslim Marriages.
  • Women Quazis and Women Members of the Board of Quazis: the ICMPLR proposes the appointment of women as Quazis and the members of the Board of Quazis to administer justice under the MMDA.

The authors reasonably justify these and other recommendations of the ICMPLR and according to them “if the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act of 1951were in conformity with Islamic doctrines and in strict adherence to Quranic principles, then the question of reform or amendment would not arise. The Quran is a complete code of life giving detailed rules and regulations regarding social, cultural, political and economic problems. But the present Act has many flaws and loopholes. There is therefore an urgent need to amend the Act in accordance with Islamic equity norms and codes. The reformed document should provide ways, means and solutions to problems experienced and faced by the present society. The criteria should strictly be in accordance to our Dhean” (P.56).

It is obvious that MWRAF and the ICMPLR want to reform the MPL strictly within the Islamic framework. They do not want to cross the boundary, although strategically. The problem is that those who oppose any vital reform of MPL also claim that these reforms are against the Islamic doctrine, the Shariah. What is the way out? It is to provide a rational and progressive interpretation of Shariah in its historical perspectives and relevant to the modern context as it has done in several Muslim countries. It is with the rational interpretation some of the Muslim countries banned polygamy and increased the minimum age of marriage to 18. The ICMPLR could have also proposed such reforms instead of their above mentioned proposals of 1 and 2 that seem to be a compromise.

The final chapter on ‘Strategies for Reform: Engaging with Muslim Personal Law Reform from within an Islamic framework’ by Chulani Kodikara provides a brilliant account of the subject. As she stated, “from a historical perspective, Islam was way ahead of its time in uplifting women’s status. Many of the revelations in the Qur’an are by nature reform-oriented, transforming key aspects of pre-Islamic customary laws and practices in progressive ways and address the changing needs of society. With the spread of Islam deeper into Africa, Asia and Europe, it has continued to evolve and be influenced by the social, political, economic and cultural conditions obtaining in the areas where it gained a foothold, giving rise to a diversity of socio-legal practices” (P.57). As she also noted, “a close look at Islamic socio-legal system around the world reveals an immense range of interpretations of laws and traditions…in relation to family laws and women’s rights where it is often the case that the laws were archaic or unjust, a common practice has been to argue for reform from within the framework of Islam…what is noteworthy is that in some countries radical reform of family laws has been possible from within the framework of Islam. Examples of such reform include: Tunisia, which banned polygamy; Malaysia, recognized a homemaker wife’s right to claim a share of matrimonial assets upon divorce; and Morocco which set a minimum age of marriage at eighteen for both men and women” (pp.57 – 58).

Kodikara explains three strategies used in several Muslim countries to reform Shariah laws related to family affairs. They are, 1) Siyasa Sharyya, public policy, decision of a ruler or an authority in a legal matter, 2) Thakkhayyur, reform by means of an eclectic choice made from among the wide range of opinions present in Islam and 3) Ijtihad, a progressive reinterpretation of Quran. Of these three, in my opinion Ijtihad is more important in the modern context. Kodikara provides a number of examples of reforms that were possible under each category in different Muslim countries.

In her concluding remarks Kodikara states that “notwithstanding these possibilities of reform, Muslim laws continue to be bedeviled by questions of gender, identity politics, ignorance, and anti-women interpretations of the Quran”. She also points out a possibility of a repercussive reaction towards women that, “when women begin to challenge particular interpretations of Muslim laws and the existing status quo, the possibility of being alienated from one’s community as an apostate or a feminist inspired by Western values is very real threat… in addition, the rising tide of identity politics, the lack of state commitment to protect minority rights or women’s rights and the lack of a broad based movement for reform continues to pose enormous challenges to realizing meaningful reform of MPL” (p.65).

Muslims all over the world are in a dilemma, in a state of split mindset, concerning tradition and modernity. As far as the material life is concerned they are in the 21st century, enjoying the benefits of modern science and technology which were not imaginable during the time of the Prophet and his companions. On the other hand, as far as the religion is concerned they are still in the 7th century. They believe that the laws of Shariah are divine and permanent although the society is continuously changing from one stage to another. This contradiction continues to prevail in the Muslim societies from the beginning of the modern era.

There are three opposing trends to solve this contradiction in the Islamic societies. The first one is complete modernization or Westernization like Turkey under Mustafa Kamal Ataturk in the early 20th century. The second one is total rejection of any change in the socio-cultural and political institutions and complete Islamization; that is going back to the past like the Taliban of Afghanistan. The third one is a mixture of Islamization and modernization of various kinds and degrees as propagated by some modern Islamic scholars like Jamaluddin Afghani, Muhammad Abduh and Seyed Ahamed Khan. However, the second one is becoming more influential in varying degrees in the Muslim world mainly because of the reaction and resistance to the political, economic and cultural imperialism of the West and the emergence of various kinds of Islamism.

In this context it is important to insist that progressive Muslim intellectuals and organizations have a role to play in moderating the society providing rational interpretations to Shariah placing it in its historical context. In this regard, it is important to note a distinction between Deen and Shariah made by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, a respectable Islamic scholar and a rational interpreter of the Quran. According to him Deen represents the basic principles and value system of Islam which are universal and Shariah represents the laws and codes of conduct of Islamic communities which are not universal and vary from time to time and place to place according to the historical and social conditions of the Muslim communities.

For example, the Shariah on slavery is not applicable in the present social context because as an accepted social institution it has been totally abolished from the globe although it can be seen here and there as residual of an age old practice. At the time of the Prophet the slavery system had been firmly rooted as a social institution in Arabia as in the other parts of the world. Slaves as commodity can be bought and sold in public; war captives became slaves; the masters of the slave women had the right to use them for their sexual pleasure. Although Islam did not abolish slavery, it neither approved nor encouraged it. However, the Quran and the Prophet insisted the people to treat the slaves justly as human being and encouraged them to free slaves. The Prophet himself, his family members and his companions freed more than 39 thousand slaves at that time. It was a remarkable initiative in the history to abolish slavery from the globe. It is obvious that the intention of Quran and the Prophet was to abolish slavery although they did not legally prohibit it; they left it to the human conscience in the future as the historical condition was not conducive at that time. It took more than a millennium to abolish slavery. Logically it could have started from the Muslim world but they were very late to do it. Britain, America and Russia abolished slavery in the late 19th century and the other Western countries followed them. Turkey, the centre of the Ottoman Empire, abolished slavery in the early 20th century under the influence of the West. Saudi Arabia was one of the last Muslim countries that legally abolished slavery in 1965 under the pressure of the US; although an influential imam stupidly issued a fatwa that abolishing slavery was against Shariah. There are some kind of bonded labour and human trafficking in many parts of the modern world including Muslim countries but the old system of slavery is no more in existence and the Shariah related to this system is totally defunct.

Like the Shariah related to slavery, a number of provision in the MPL, based on Shariah, also not relevant and inapplicable in the modern context due to the current needs and social change.

That is why most of the Muslim countries changed a number of provisions in their Personal Laws since they are not suitable to the modern social context.

In this background MWRAF’s proposals to reform MPL in Sri Lanka is vital and timely. The 15 member committee appointed by the cabinet in 2009 to bring substantive reform in the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act of 1951 is yet to finalize their report. If the Committee submits their report to the government it will be the base for a Bill in the parliament soon. Therefore the Committee should seriously consider the proposals put forwarded by the MWRAF before they finalize it. The book under review has provides ample evidence for their proposals and substantiates them with the fundamental Quranic principle of social and gender equality.

Further, the Muslim community should respond positively to implement the proposal without any delay and they have the obligation to demand the Muslim political leadership and the government to take immediate actions to make the proposals as a legal reality. The Muslim community has waited for more than half a century for meaningful reform in their personal law and it is the time to act wisely to achieve this.

*M A Nuhman, Retired Professor, University of Peradeniya

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51 Responses to Shariyah & Modernity

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    Does Prof Nuhman have a personal opinion about any of the legal protected, or promoted, practices of the Muslim Community in Sri Lanka? Can he please provide a list and brief particulars of the practices which in his view are abhorrent to a “civilized” mind? Dear Prof, that to me is the only way to move forward. Cowardice cannot bring forth progress.

    Ahmed Reza
    August 1, 2016 at 6:17 pm
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      Most Child molesters/rapists are not Muslims in Sri Lanka.

      Muhandiram
      August 1, 2016 at 8:15 pm
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        Muhandiram but, yourt nabhi thuma was a child Raist as he married young children. Muslims don’t have to be child molesters as their women’s only job is making children and be inside the home. Islamic law also allows polygamy.

        jim softy
        August 1, 2016 at 9:59 pm
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          Jim Soffy You are living in the 19th century. There are enough qualified Muslim women in the country

          zaneera farook
          August 2, 2016 at 5:50 pm
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            zaneera farook “You are living in the 19th century. There are enough qualified Muslim women in the country” However, according to the Sri Lankan Muslim Marriage and Divorce act, 1. Women are considered Chattel, owned by the Wali, Guardian, ad when she is married off the Guardian sings the women off, just like one transfers the property. 2. The women does not sign the marriage contract. 3. The consent of the women is not recorded in writing in the presence of witnesses. 4. Any Muslim girl over can be married off with or without her consent, 5. If the Muslim Girl is below 12 years old, they can take to a Qadi Judge, sand he can hive permission to marry, the girl, as low as 1 day old. Zaneera Farook, Yes, There are enough qualified Muslim women in the country who are all subject to the above 5 rules currently. that is what need change now.

            Amarasiri
            August 3, 2016 at 2:20 am
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              Zaneera, you may be a modern westernised Muslim woman, but think of the poor and the illiterate. This is the kind of medieval cruelty that they are legally subject to. ’23. Notwithstanding anything in section 17, a marriage contracted by a Muslim girl who has not attained the age of twelve years shall not be registered under this Act unless the Quazi for the area in which the girl resideshas,after such inquiry as he may deem necessary, authorized the registration of the marriage.’ http://www.kapruka.com/Sri_Lanka/law/view_legal_document.jsp?type=text&key1=laws&key2=M+And+D+Muslim&key3=Marriage+And+Divorce+(Muslim)&key4=Family+Law

              Paul
              August 3, 2016 at 1:44 pm
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                When a Muslim woman discusses her grievances and wants reforms,or talks against oppression she is called a ” western” woman. For me western woman is not the benchmark. I have enough e.g. from Sri Lanka who had fought for human and women’s rights

                zaneera farook
                August 3, 2016 at 9:08 pm
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                  zaneera farook “When a Muslim woman discusses her grievances and wants reforms,or talks against oppression she is called a ” western” woman” Amarasiri have empathy for you and All Muslim women who are discriminated and subject to abuse by the the orthodox religious and community leadership, basically dominated by males who reluctant and also resists the basic rights given in the Quran, by giving their own tribal male-dominated interpretation. They do not allow women to interpret the Quran, and do not allow women to be Ulema and Imams? Why? Tradition? Power? Does the Quran Forbid that? First Things First. 1. Get the Sri Lankan Marriage and Divorce Act Changed, to reflect the same right as the non-Muslim women. 2. Do a class action lawsuit to the Supreme Court, claiming that the Muslim Law is in conflict with the Sri Lankan Law of Equal rights for Muslim Women, as given in the constitution. Those with privileges do not give them up easily. That is why revolutions happen. Western women got voting rights only about a century ago. Slavery was there 200 years ago. Saudi Arabia had Official Slavery until 1960. The Muslim women now have unofficial slavery by the the orthodox religious and community leadership, basically dominated by males, as reflected in the Sri Lankan Marriage and Divorce Act. Please do keep challenging, agitating and gathering the critical mass. May Almighty God help, you and God is with the women. Satan is with the orthodox religious and community leadership, basically dominated by males, who follow tribal traditions, as per the Iblis, Satan, Devil. Why did Saudi Arabia have OFFICIAL slavery until 1960?

                  Amarasiri
                  August 3, 2016 at 10:59 pm
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                  Zeena Farook What’s the the best way to deal with stubborn husbands/males? First peacefully through love, kindness and compassion; generally ladies are good in that. If you fail in peaceful path be aggressive, it’s good for all ladies, especially Muslim ladies to learn marshal arts to tackle male dominance. Tell them clearly that you’re not slaves of Islam.

                  sr
                  August 4, 2016 at 8:19 am
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                    zaneera farook RE: Comment by sr 1. “If you fail in peaceful path be aggressive, it’s good for all ladies, especially Muslim ladies to learn marshal arts to tackle male dominance” Most women do not earn enough to be economically independent. So, like a domesticated dog, will have to follow the master orders and wishes. a) Amarasiri strongly advice that all the Muslim Women get together and recruit the other non-Muslim Women, like it was done as a Common Candidate against Mahinda Rajapaksa and his cronies to liberate the country from the crutches of MaRa, Mara. b) Amarasiri strongly advice that all the Muslim Women get together and recruit the other non-Muslim Women and file Fundamental Rights case in the Supreme Court stating that the Fundamental Rights of the Muslim Women are being violated by the orthodox religious and community leadership, basically dominated by males, under the guise of Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act, that in itself is a travesty of justice and the constitutional rights of Muslim Women and girls. Please get together with other Civil Groups, like the Friday Forum and and others, who can help and support you. Go to the Sri Lanka Ma Mahila Simiti, and pleas your case for their support. See how brave little Pakistani School girl, Mallala, took on the Pakistani Taliban! We want the Sri Lankan Mallalas, not Rezana Nafiks, who are beheaded by the Devil, Satan, Iblis following Wahhabis and their Clones. 2. Tell them clearly that you’re not slaves of Islam. Tell that the orthodox religious and community leadership, basically dominated by males, using religion contrary to the core teachings of Islam, to perpetuate their hegemony and to suppress and deny the Fundamental Human Rights of Women. Wish you all the best in your struggle against oppression by the orthodox religious and community leadership, basically dominated by males.

                    Amarasiri
                    August 4, 2016 at 3:26 pm
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        Latest is a Buddhist monk who is absconding arrest. See another column in CT

        maali karunaratne
        August 2, 2016 at 5:48 pm
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      Since there is very minimal issue,it’s not necessary any amendments.even if do,that is solely responsible and under the supervision of Muslim religious leaders and intellectuals.(as same as Buddhists can’t reform the Monks code of conduct.even many having extra-marital relationship,LGBT,child molesters etc).

      Arun
      August 1, 2016 at 8:22 pm
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        Inability to to maintain bhikku’s discipline to the highest level will compel government and people alike to intervene. Generally they don’t intervene because of the respect they have for bhikkus. Adhere to the Vinaya pitakaye principles Rev. bhikkus. Time seems to have come to remind you about it. Please take it as a warning.

        sr
        August 2, 2016 at 8:52 am
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        Muslim law is discriminatory towards women. A Muslim husband has a right to divorce a women without a reason. Maximum delay can be 3 months. But his request can not be refused. Now he also need not pay alimony to the wife. He can get married to a woman and can be a destitute. Is that fair. He can get married to 4 women at a time and legally he can divorce and then get married to another About polygamy, may be very few men in Sri Lanka avail the opportunity but it is encouraged by these religious groups. religious It is increasing. There is a rule to say to treat them equally and we know cases where they are not treated equally. That is why certain countries have abolished it. The number of polygamous marriages is not important but this law should not be in the statute books. It is women who are affected and not religious leaders so the consultations had to be from women. If the commentators in this column visit the quazi courts to see the suffering of the women. Quazi need not have basic qualification. Some Quazies are known to scold women and use foul language.

        zaneera farook
        August 2, 2016 at 5:31 pm
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      Prof. M A Nuhman “However, the orthodox religious and community leadership, basically dominated by males is reluctant and also resists any meaningful changes in their personal law, because they think that, it is divine, permanent and not changeable.” Here lies the core-problem. Because they think that: 1. it is divine 2. permanent, and 3. not changeable. Q1. If it is divine, how come the Theory of Evolution is True, as opposed Adam and Eve beliefs? Ask them how many chromosomes they have, and what about the Chromosome #2. Ken Miller on Human Evolution Uploaded on Feb 14, 2007 Dr. Ken Miller talks about the relationship between Homo sapiens and the other primates. He discusses a recent finding of the Human Genome Project which identifies the exact point of fusion of two primate chromosomes that resulted in human chromosome #2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi8FfMBYCkk 2. permanent : Check with Al-Gahzali his errors and Natural Philosophy. Stupidest Muslim Vs Neil Tyson – How ideology can ruin intellectual power Published on Nov 10, 2014 This is not a debate between some Muslim and Neil Tyson. But this video shows the thinking of some very well educated 21’st century Muslim (I don’t know he is ignorant, stupid or dishonest. But he is one for sure) and Neil Tyson speaking in a lecture about how Muslims intellectual power ruined by an ideology. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uyCxrL9-C84 3. not changeable. The Earth and the Solar has been changing over the past 5 billion years. These beliefs are beliefs of the Middle Ages. . There is only one constant- Change! Do these orthodox religious and community leadership, basically dominated by males, believe that Revelation is above Reason and Observation, despite support and data. Do these orthodox religious and community leadership, basically dominated by males, believe that Stupidity is a virtue?

      Amarasiri
      August 2, 2016 at 5:02 am
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      Please read the Muslim Marriages and Divorce Act(MMDA). You will know the abhorrent practice. Is there anything more to say that if a woman, whatever the age may be, she can be thrown out of the house by divorcing her. What is practiced is not what Prophet( sal ) taught but what is convenient to men. All the good things that our Prophet (sal) said are not practiced and what is practiced is those that are advantageous to men. There is a provision ( Sura Bakra?) that to compensate the women at the time of divorce called Matha and that is not in the MMDA and there are provisions regarding polygamy in Islam. These are not in the law.

      zaneera farook
      August 2, 2016 at 5:47 pm
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        zaneera farook “Please read the Muslim Marriages and Divorce Act(MMDA). You will know the abhorrent practice.” “All the good things that our Prophet (sal) said are not practiced and what is practiced is those that are advantageous to men.” These orthodox religious and community leadership, basically dominated by males, are practising Arab trabalism, not Islam, bevcause it is to their advantage. That is why the country’s Laws and Citizen’s rights should be above the tribal rights of men.

        Amarasiri
        August 2, 2016 at 9:56 pm
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    I don’t understand,why even these so called educated people does not know the reality. 1.Postpartum depression/diseases are very minimal among Muslims compare to others in Sri Lanka(WHO-reports) 2.How many Sri Lankan Muslims having multiple wives?(less than 0.001%) 3.How many girls getting marriage before 16 years of age(can check through registrar records). All Islamophobia hate mongers are even washed these idiots too……..

    Arun
    August 1, 2016 at 8:13 pm
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    Inability to separate religion and law is a sad situation. Religion is a belief; an unproven principal, It should be described as a grave crime for anybody to let unproven principals to penetrate deep into the minds of people, whether it’s Buddhism, Christianity, Islam or Hindu or any other. Muslims are the severely affected victims of such a crime. We should not condemn them for religions fault but humanity has a responsibility of relieving them from that tyranny of religion. We have to continue the effort to make it; law is by the people for the people.

    sr
    August 1, 2016 at 8:37 pm
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      Please substitute principle for principal Religion’s for religions. Thanks sr

      sr
      August 1, 2016 at 10:20 pm
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    Prof. M A Nuhman RE: Shariyah & Modernity RE: //”Muslim Personal Law (MPL) in Sri Lanka that governs the family affairs of the Muslims which specifically includes marriage, divorce and inheritance and exclusively applicable to the Muslims is supplementary to the general law of the country.” // //”Consequently there is a demand for a meaningful reform in the MPL from a certain section of progressive Muslim men and women across the country and also there have been specific proposals for such reform from the middle of the 20th century. However, the orthodox religious and community leadership, basically dominated by males is reluctant and also resists any meaningful changes in their personal law, because they think that, it is divine, permanent and not changeable.”// //”In her concluding remarks Kodikara states that “notwithstanding these possibilities of reform, Muslim laws continue to be bedeviled by questions of gender, identity politics, ignorance, and anti-women interpretations of the Quran”. // For the orthodox religious and community leadership, basically dominated by males is is a Power and Hegemony Issue. They want to keep women as Chattel and slaves. The girls and women are traded, by the Owner, Wali. The Bride never signs the marriage certificate, It is signed n the slave owner, the Wali, the guardian. The orthodox religious and community leadership, basically dominated by males do NOT follow the Traditions of the Prophet. they are very selective as to what that gives them hegemony. Prophet Mohamed married an older women, These orthodox religious and community leadership will never marry an older women, always younger women and underage girls. Is this Divide Law? Whom are you fooling? The Country’s secular laws protecting individual rights should be above the religious laws, that are from the middle ages. The Bride must sign the marriage certificate with two witnesses, without duress AND the bride MUST be above 18 years of age. The orthodox religious and community leadership, basically dominated by males will always follow double standards when it comes to women. The Catholics did that for a long time.

    Amarasiri
    August 1, 2016 at 9:28 pm
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    Kandyan law is not practised anymore, and I am not sure of Thresdawalamai law whether it is still practised in Jaffna. However, these age old practices does not fit today’s civilised world where we live now. By far it is best to do away with these laws and stick to one law that govern the country, fair to all. These laws add more divisions to our society and does nothing better.

    ranjith chandrasekera
    August 2, 2016 at 5:34 am
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      I believe that the Thesawalamai law is practiced in the North only in respect of inheritance of property. Sengodan. M

      Sengodan. M
      August 2, 2016 at 1:12 pm
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    Religion should be separate from state, plain and simple. Myself being a Buddhist would in noway support anyone imposing “Buddhist Law” on laypersons. My worst nightmare would be if BBS or something similar took control of the country. Thailand, Burma, Bhutan have “Buddhist Law” which contradicts Buddhism itself since you cannot under any circumstance impose what the Buddha preached on laypersons/civilians as law. Ancient Kings to modern day rulers have to remain neutral especially in multi-cultural/multi-religious socialite. A persons religious belief should be personal and never imposed as law. So I repeat, RELIGION SHOULD ALWAYS BE SEPARATE FROM STATE! Law should be neutral and equal to everyone with no exception.

    Thanos
    August 2, 2016 at 10:05 am
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    Dear Mr. Amarasiri The theory of evolution is only a theory not the truth. Look up the meaning of theory and the word truth in the dictionary please.

    A.Haniffa
    August 2, 2016 at 10:54 am
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      Haniffa there are two meanings to the word ‘theory’. One is an unproved idea such as reincarnation. The other is a proven idea which has retained the term theory, for example the Theory of Relativity. Evolution is that kind of theory – a proven fact. The two meanings of theory are explained here and so is evolution https://richarddawkins.net/2015/11/is-it-a-theory-is-it-a-law-no-its-a-fact/

      Paul
      August 2, 2016 at 12:39 pm
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      @A.Haniffa, You don’t seem understand the difference between theory and hypothesis. You don’t seem understand that evolution is a very general term. “Natural Selection” on the other hand is specific term. And NO! “Natural Selection” is NOT just a hypothesis. There is more than a century of empirical studies to back it up. And the last point, Science does not base itself on “Truths”. Science is fluidic. What is real-science today is pseudo-science tomorrow. “Natural Selection” is subject to this very reality. Sometime in the future a person or persons will bring forward an idea that will eventually flip the scientific community upside down and the process goes on and on…

      Thanos
      August 2, 2016 at 1:02 pm
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      Copy paste Amarasiri is a waste of space and time

      Ceylonese
      August 2, 2016 at 1:07 pm
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        Yes – copy paste is difficult to read. I wish he would stop this practice

        priyangika
        August 2, 2016 at 5:53 pm
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        Ceylonese and priyangika ” Copy paste Amarasiri is a waste of space and time” It is really, really hard to make the Ceylonese, whose average IQ is 79 to go up, just like that of Singapore, 108. Educating and informing fools, mootals and modayas is hard even in the ‘enlightened’ West after 400 years of age of reason and enlightenment and 4 centuries after Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler. National IQ Scores – Country Rankings http://www.photius.com/rankings/national_iq_scores_country_ranks.html Too many fools, mootals, modayas. Even in America and Europe with an average IQ of 100, still there are many fools, mootals and modayas, who still believe that the Sun goes around the Earth. So, there is no surprise that there are Ceylonese and Sri Lankans fools, modays and mootals, with average IQ of 79, in the Land of Native Veddah Aethho who also believe that the Sun goes around the Earth. Educating these fools, mootals and modayas is a millennial task, that requires, wiki, media, social, facebook, twitter, etc. and other methods and word of mouth, posters. 1 In 4 Americans Thinks The Sun Goes Around The Earth, Survey Says http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2014/02/14/277058739/1-in-4-americans-think-the-sun-goes-around-the-earth-survey-says A quarter of Americans surveyed could not correctly answer that the Earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around, according to a report out Friday from the National Science Foundation. The survey of 2,200 people in the United States was conducted by the NSF in 2012 and released on Friday at an annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago. To the question “Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth,” 26 percent of those surveyed answered incorrectly.

        Amarasiri
        August 3, 2016 at 8:45 pm
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      Would not all religious teachings too be mere theories and not the truth?

      sekara
      August 2, 2016 at 2:51 pm
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        Religions are opinions/hypothesis and not truths. Hence everyone is personally entitled to their religious or non-religious view. I am a Theravada Buddhist because it is my choice. Certain concepts are acceptable to me. But in noway can I claim that it is the ultimate truth. I am not a stream-entrant let alone an Arahant. So how can I claim it to be some ultimate truth over another belief? When it comes to governments, IMHO, the best solution is secular/neutral constitutions that does not show preference to race, caste, religion, etc.

        Thanos
        August 2, 2016 at 7:27 pm
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        sekara “Would not all religious teachings too be mere theories and not the truth?” Religious beliefs are not theories or hypotheses. They are simply brainwashings, to maintain hegemony of the priests, mullahs, ulema and monks, and law and order the way they see it. “Religion is the opium of the masses”-Karl Marx.

        Amarasiri
        August 4, 2016 at 6:54 pm
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      The theory of evolution is logical, so it’s reasonable to take into consideration whether it’s proved or not. Idea of creation is for fools and some non fools may embrace it as it paves and promotes male dominance.

      sr
      August 2, 2016 at 3:01 pm
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      zaneera farook “Please read the Muslim Marriages and Divorce Act(MMDA). You will know the abhorrent practice.” “All the good things that our Prophet (sal) said are not practiced and what is practiced is those that are advantageous to men.” These orthodox religious and community leadership, basically dominated by males, are practising Arab trabalism, not Islam, bevcause it is to their advantage. That is why the country’s Laws and Citizen’s rights should be above the tribal rights of men.

      Amarasiri
      August 2, 2016 at 11:23 pm
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      A.Haniffa “The theory of evolution is only a theory not the truth. Look up the meaning of theory and the word truth in the dictionary please.” The Theory of Evolution is Fact. 1. You have 46 Chromosomes. 2. * Your chromosome #2 was formed by the fusion of two primate chromosomes. 3. Primates have 48 chromosomes. 4. The molecular switches play an important role in evolution. 5. The DNA and RNA of all the species, including plants and animals are the same. * Fusion of ancestral chromosomes left distinctive remnants of telomeres, and a vestigial centromere. As other non-human extant hominidae have 48 chromosomes it is believed that the human chromosome 2 is the end result of the merging of two chromosomes. List of organisms by chromosome count https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_organisms_by_chromosome_count Pan troglodytes 48 Gorilla 48 Homo sapiens 46 The list of organisms by chromosome count describes ploidy or numbers of chromosomes in the cells of various plants, animals, protists, and other living organisms. This number, along with the visual appearance of the chromosome, is known as the karyotype,and can be found by looking at the chromosomes through a microscope. Attention is paid to their length, the position of the centromeres, banding pattern, any differences between the sex chromosomes, and any other physical characteristics. The preparation and study of karyotypes is part of cytogenetics.

      Amarasiri
      August 2, 2016 at 11:38 pm
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    Women constitute a little over 50 percent in any society. Male chauvinism is prevalent world wide. But it is unfortunately most effective in Islamic societies. It is great that a collection of progressive Muslim women have come forward to correct the outdated practices applicable in the Muslim Personal Law. This is a step in the correct direction and is in keeping with the changing times. It is very important that this organisation creates a greater awareness of these matters amongst Muslim women, especially the younger generation. It is only through greater awareness that changes can be brought about. Sengodan. M

    Sengodan. M
    August 2, 2016 at 1:06 pm
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      In the Islamic value system, (Shariah) rights are not equal; rather varies due to circumstances. In some instances women have more rights than men and vice versa. Example women have the right to retain all their earnings / income and not share it with their husband. In depth study requires before making any serious judgement. In most cases the cultural practices of an ethnicity supersedes the Islamic Shariah. Practicing Muslims refer to Divine guidance / source in all matters concerning life on this earth.

      Hussain Fahmy
      August 2, 2016 at 2:28 pm
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        Yes – there are good laws and practices in Islam. We can own property and we have a right to keep our earnings. Husband must give cooked food and even pay for nursing her children. But having said that discriminatory practices relating to marriage and divorce is there and must end. According to this article, new laws proposed is in accordance to sharia. Also can a wife exercise her independent right to property, if on the next day the husband can file action for divorce.

        zaneera farook
        August 2, 2016 at 6:36 pm
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          We must not short sell women, specially in Arabia. Marriage and divorce are not bound till death do apart. If a husband divorces, he will have to support / maintenance her expenses until she marries someone else. Remember, we are accountable in the day of reckonin .

          Maghribi
          August 3, 2016 at 4:38 pm
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            Maghribi “If a husband divorces, he will have to support / maintenance her expenses until she marries someone else.” How many really do that? May be they are given a sack of potatoes and salt once a month. In Arabia, the marriage is a transaction of the property, and the consideration is called Mahar, or bride price. When the father pf the bride does not like the groom, he increases the bride price, the “auction price’, until that man walks off. The woman has no say in it. In Islamic and Tribal customs, the woman has very little say in it, the “transaction”.

            Amarasiri
            August 4, 2016 at 4:03 am
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              Stupidity at it’s height. Stop copy paste. Liars are subject to ‘Karma’

              Ceylonese
              August 4, 2016 at 12:43 pm
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            But the MMDAct is not recommending payment of alimony. That is the problem that Muslim women are having. Unless she has an independent income, and the courage to face criticism from the society she will be too reluctant to assert her rights.

            zaneera farook
            August 4, 2016 at 10:02 pm
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    Is the woman in ‘Hindu’ society much better off? A Hindu should put his house in order before making patronizing remarks about others. The shackles of feudal thought need to be eliminated from the entire South Asia.

    sekara
    August 2, 2016 at 3:04 pm
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    Subsequent to an opinion expressed by Al Ghazali that in terms of priority, revelation must always precede reasoning, the Ulemas of the day (sometime around the 13th Century AD) declared a closing of the doors of Ijtihad (Independent Reasoning) which until then had been the mainstay of Islamic Scholars together with the processes of Qiyas (Deductive Analogy) and Ijma (Consensus) in the interpretation of the Quran and Hadith in the development of fiqh (Islamic Law). The Islamic Doctrines that had been formulated up to that point in time were then compiled to become what is known as the Shariah Laws. Furthermore, in a bid to tighten their waning control over the Ummah, the Ulema strongly advocated the practice of Taqlid (Blind Obedience) among the Faithful. The discouragement of Independent Reasoning and the promotion of Blind Obedience had a devastating effect on the thinking prowess of the average Muslim over the centuries that followed. The brain is like a muscle in that if it is not exercised effectively it could atrophy from the lack of use. The Muslim brain has not been exercised to the extent it was before the closing of the doors of Ijtihad, a period referred to as the Golden Age of Islam – an era of intellectual and cultural achievements. Although the knowledge base available to the Muslims grew enormously especially after the Industrial Revolution, the Muslims Scholars never had the opportunity to re-interpret the Quran and Hadith in the context of this new knowledge. They were not afforded the opportunity to engage in intellectually-stimulating and mentally-challenging lines of fresh thinking about the Shariah Laws. Blind Obedience has resulted in the ossification of the Muslim Brain. Those Muslims who attempt to break out of this mould are immediately labelled as ‘Kufr’ (Unbelievers) and may even have Fatwas issued issued against them by (who else ?) the Ulemas. The Muslims must launch a campaign for the restitution of the process of Independent Reasoning. The Muslim Mind must be unshackled. Bear in mind the words of Rosa Luxemburg “Those who do not move, do not notice their chains”.

    The Thinking Muslim
    August 2, 2016 at 5:01 pm
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      Independent reasoning is as defective as blind following.

      Maghribi
      August 2, 2016 at 6:01 pm
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        Maghribi “Independent reasoning is as defective as blind following.” How many chromosomes do you have? 46? 48? The Primates have 48. Your chromosome #2, was formed by the fusion of two primate chromosomes. Get your Chromosome #2 Tested. How many chromosomes did Adam and Eve have? Did the Holy Bible or the Holy Quran reveal that? Had t0 be investigated and found out. Ken Miller on Human Evolution Uploaded on Feb 14, 2007 Dr. Ken Miller talks about the relationship between Homo sapiens and the other primates. He discusses a recent finding of the Human Genome Project which identifies the exact point of fusion of two primate chromosomes that resulted in human chromosome #2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi8FfMBYCkk

        Amarasiri
        August 3, 2016 at 12:45 am
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        Magrhibi: If you are a blind follower of quran that means you are suspicious of what is there. So, just be honest to yourself. Go and find the truth.

        jim softy
        August 4, 2016 at 8:20 am
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      The Thinking Muslim, An excellent comment by you! May the period of Independent Reasoning dawn again! Sengodan. M

      Sengodan. M
      August 5, 2016 at 8:01 am
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    Sorry MA Nuhman, Shariya can never be modernised. “Caste & Modernity’, ‘Astrology & Modernity’, ‘Donald Trump and Modernity’ are oxymoronic. ‘Shariya & Modernity’ is in the same category. By the way HLD Mahindapala and Izeth Hussain will claim that caste (Vellahlah at that!) is found only among Tamils but they earn a living saying such nonsense. “ There are such supplementary family laws like Kandyan Law and Thesavalamai Law that governs the family affairs of Kandyan Sinhalese and Jaffna Tamils respectively.” Ask an AL student from a Jaffna school as to what Thesavalamai Law is. There will be a blank and clueless look. A Muslim AL student will be quite knowledgeable in Shariya Law. This says a lot. Some of the proposals by the Committee that became controversial at the forum were as follows: Minimum age of marriage: The ICMPLR recommended that the marriage of a bride under 16 years of age should not be registered without the sanction of the Quazi under whose judicial district the bride resides. Why is this controversial? What the hell is “…..marriage of a bride under 16 years of age should not be registered………….”. Implies “allowed but not registered”. This is having the cake and eating it. The committee does not have the courage to ban child marriages. Polygamy: The ICMPLR recommended that with regard to polygamy, an application should be made to a Quazi and following an inquiry, whereby he could either accept or reject it. Polygamy & Modernity?? Modernising polygamy? The committee would not have considered a woman having several husbands. Women Marriage registrars: the ICMPLR recommended that women should also be appointed as Registrars of Muslim Marriages. Is it a token 1 in 100? Why not equal representation? ICMPLR wants to maintain the status quo.

    K.Pillai
    August 2, 2016 at 11:41 pm
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