By Shreen Abdul Saroor –
In the last few weeks there has been hype about reforming the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA). Irrespective of three decades of struggle to reform this archaic Act by Muslim women, Muslim Members of Parliament (MPs) have only now come forward to iron out differences in the two sets of recommendations given by Justice Saleem Marsoof’s committee early last year. In my opinion, in the wake of various rhetoric around the MMDA including that of ‘one country one law’ it may have finally dawned on the Muslim MPs that they need to act responsibly to save the MMDA. Hence their proposal that was to reform was made public. The Prime Minister (PM) also exerted pressure—thus the MMDA reform inadvertently became a centerpiece of a set of activities to counter growing Islamic extremism in the wake of the Easter bombings.
All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU) has been the elephant in the room in the reform processes not only now but for many years. Activists who have long worked to reform this law have grown weary of engaging with this gang of arrogant misogynists. The very reason the Marsoof Committee took nine years to submit their final report is that ACJU representatives of the committee like M.I.M. Rizwie (a man who has held the ACJU top post for 20 long years) and its secretary Mubarak could not agree with learned Islamic scholars and legal experts on one set of recommendations. By hijacking the reform process at this late stage, ACJU was clearly subverting the work of the Marsoof Committee, which had consulted with all relevant stakeholders (including ACJU) earlier in making recommendations for reform.
On 15th July 2019 a document was leaked with 14 proposed reforms on which Muslim MPs had apparently reached an agreement and planned to advance for cabinet approval. The Prime Minister reportedly instructed Hon. Haleem (Muslim Cultural Affairs Minister) and Hon. Thalatha Atukorale (Justice Minister) to co-sign and submit the concept note for Cabinet approval. But what we have witnessed over the last two weeks is nothing short of thuggery by the ACJU. If we call Gnanasara Thero and Rathana Thero racists for spreading hate, then the ACJU’s Rizwie and his team are doing the same against their own community members and must be called out. Two top officials of the Muslim cultural affairs ministry told me that it is not their ministry’s job to reform this law but the justice ministry and that the affected women have to talk to Hon. Thalatha. This position had arisen due to the reluctance of Minister Haleem to go ahead with the agreed Cabinet memorandum possibly due to not wanting to go against the dictates of ACJU. This also indicates how the ACJU brings down elected members of parliament to their knees.
First, ACJU sent a letter on 18th July 2019 warning twelve lawfully elected Muslim members of parliament, including senior cabinet ministers that if they reform this law incorporating the 14 points agreed amongst themselves that the MPs will be held responsible for a historic treachery and betrayal on the Muslim community. They then mobilized Muslim traders and mosque groups against Ministers and MPs who wanted reforms and sabotaged the proposed cabinet paper. They are now calling on other groups (such as the Thariqa groups) to join hands in getting the MMDA reformed their way or completely blocking it.
The ACJU revealed its hypocrisy, by being part of the Marsoof Committee to reform the MMDA while at the same time, preaching from the pulpit that the MMDA is a divine law and cannot be touched. Their continued hypocrisy advertises that Rizwie is the fourth member of a parliamentarian committee alongside Ministers Rauff Hakeem, Haleem and MP Faizer Musthapha. What does ACJU want? The answer becomes clear when one looks carefully at the issues that ACJU is keen to block reforms in:
1. Female Quazis and requirement of Quazis being qualified lawyers
2. Mandatory registration of marriage
3. Minimum age of marriage fixed at age 18
Female Quazis and Requiring Quazis to be Qualified Lawyers.
ACJU in the last 10 years has spread its tentacles into the Quazi court structure. By articulating that this law needs to be interpreted within a Shariya / Islamic framework they have managed to get their members appointed as Quazis in many areas. Like the way they controlled Halal certification, ACJU wants full control over 65 Quazi courts island-wide so that their grip on the Muslim community can be further tightened and to reflect a rigid draconian rather their ways of interpretation of Islam. Through this they want to ensure that their interpretation of Quran is in consonance with Wahabism that ACJU has been promoting over two decades in Sri Lanka.
Mandatory Registration of Marriage. Even though ACJU has agreed on conditional polygamy, they are against compulsory registration of marriage. Currently many women’s groups have recorded complex issues stemming from non-registration of Muslim marriages. If the marriage is not registered, there is no way to count how many times a Muslim man has married. I have personally come across cases where men have used this opportunity and married more than 4 women. In one specific case, the man had 13 wives – a veritable brothel/harem. The cases I have handled make me wonder whether these ulamas of ACJU want their men to get away with unaccountable and unlimited polygamy. One organization I work with has recorded about 658 cases of unregistered marriages this year alone (many are second or third marriages). Without a valid marriage certificate, these wives are unable get birth certificates for their children, send their children to school, or demand child maintenance when their husbands abandon them or wed other women.
Minimum age of marriage. Women’s groups have been seeking a minimum age of 18 for Muslim marriages, consistent with the minimum age for other communities. In opposing this reform, ACJU and its members are fixated on girls’ age of marriage, arguing a minimum age of 18 would allow premarital sex and children born out-of-wedlock. It is a very primitive reasoning and indicates that the ACJU has sexualized the role of Muslim women from a very early age. Why is it that the ACJU cares only about girls’ age of marriage? Irrespective of a girl had sex before the age of 18, marriage is certainly not the answer to prevent that. Further, do they think that every time a girl is raped that she should be punished by forced marriage? Or do they think that as soon as a girl is physically able, she should start producing children? Is it about forcing a woman to reproduce to increase the Muslim population? If yes, then aren’t some of the extremist monks and MPs right in their fear-mongering about Sri Lanka becoming an Islamic country in few decades? Or is it that they want young women and girls to fulfill their sexual pleasure and fantasies?
There is no easy way to say it. By vehemently opposing the minimum age of marriage at 18 and compulsory registration of Muslim marriages, the ACJU is using the MMDA to reduce Muslim women to sexual machines, to satisfy the sexual urges of their husbands, and produce babies, without regard for the health, and mental wellbeing of the Muslim women and societal norms of the country we live in. By opposing lawyers and women being Quazis, the ACJU has shown that they believe, Muslim women are inferior to non Muslim women and do not have the mental capacity to be a judge, despite Muslim women being appointed as judges to civil courts. More importantly, they want to execute its agenda through a kangaroo court system that is under their control and strictly abide by Shafi Sect which they interpret to suit their chauvinistic whims totally disregarding the development in the Islamic world.
The ACJU should not be the spokespeople for the Muslim community. The government of Sri Lanka should stop talking to the ACJU about the MMDA reform. Time and again, ACJU has been a spoiler in the reform process. Its input was duly received and considered by the Marsoof Committee, which made concrete recommendations for reform. ACJU’s attempt now to hijack a reform process years in the making exposes their true motivations and must be blocked. They do not have the best interests of Muslim women at heart and in no way should they be involved in this reform process.
*Author is a human rights activist and patron of Mannar Women’s Development Federation and founder member of Women’s Action Network.
JD / August 2, 2019
Sri Lanka is a WAHHABI MUSLIM COUNTRY. In Indonesia which has the highest muslim population in Asia, youngest age to get married for a girl is 16 years. for a boy it is 19 years. divorce can occur only both the wife and the husband can prove they can not live in harmony Once filed, both have to wait 45 days to finalize the divorce. You can not just say one word and divorce the wife..
Laxmi / August 2, 2019
Shireen, thanks but this MMD reform circus is part of the “Politics of distraction” from the fact that Muslim MPs have been taking Saudi and US funds to spread Wahabi-Salafi IS terrorism and destroy Islam in Sri Lanka.
The fact is that all the Muslim MPs who are totally corrupt have not spoken out about the US rand Saudi role in the Easter Carnage and thus encourage Sinhala extremists to attack innocent Muslims. Muslim women must challenge their corrupt MPs to reveal the truth about US and Saudi role in the Easter carnage to use Muslim youth and to save innocent Muslims from attack by Buddhist monks
Muslim MPs are the biggest betrayers and attacks of Islamic faith and the Muslim community in Sri Lanka and now they are playing ball with MMD to distract everyone from their criminal support for the US-Saudi Wahabi Salafi project to destroy Islam in Sri Lanka. Muslim women should wake up and start talking about this rather just their gender issues.
Shamil / August 2, 2019
Muslim women have to cover themselves from head to toe with Burka, even though this is very hot and unhealthy in humid climates like Sri Lanka because most Muslim men are perverts who cannot control their sexual lust for women.
What a backward joke this so called religion is!
Muslim Women need too start looking beyond their head gear, small domestic world of marriages, divorce laws and perverted men’s sexual appetites to issues that concern the whole of Sri Lankan society and economy like -co-existence among all communities. While there are a few educated women like Shereen most Muslim women are backward, need to grow up and educated themselves about wider society, diversity and the co-existence
Lanka rani / August 2, 2019
Hats off to Shireen, she should contest in the next elections and come to parliament to represent Muslim women and women of all communities and men who support women..
Shireen you will be doing the whole Muslim society a big favour and all of Sri Lanka too if you would please please contest in the next general elections.
SN / August 5, 2019
Sad to say, with One Shot, there have been 10 aids monk patients who have also suffered young monks affected with this disease.
Mallaiyuran / August 2, 2019
You are a crook Laxmi. First, where did you get that spelling for your name? Is that based on Tamil, Pali or Sanskrit? Do you speak Gujarati?
Please keep out your politics from this issue. Shareen is not a politicians. She didn’t intent politics in any part of the essay. The essay is very very clean; not povocating any one; sticking to the point. If Tamil women and Sinhala Women want to join the Muslim activists, fine. Please, for the grace of God, any paid coolies like you keep out of this.
I don’t like Muslim party leaders. But Shreen says she is prepared to go with the solution provided by Muslim MPs. I would think that is not a bad idea for Muslim women, though it is much below the UN prescribed individual rights.
Saudi is coming out of its dark days. Yesterday they allowed women to work in many new fields. Now women can fly without male protector accompanying them.
Stop you washing Old Royals here. It is smelly.
Amarasiri / August 5, 2019
The mean IQ of Sri Lankan Muslims, including the Ulama of ACJU is 79.
The mean IQ of Indonesia is 87. The Indonesians can think better.
Before Wahhabism, that follows Satan, per prescient Hadith of Najd, most Sri Lankan Muslims followed Sufisam.
Wahhabism invaded with Saudi Wahhabi Petrodollars.
Thumpane Gamaya / August 2, 2019
what Muslim women must know is that this is their last chance to change the MMDA and if you miss this opportunity you may not have another chance. so team up and put pressure on Muslim leaders to act accordingly or otherwise ACJU will revert back to their cunning tactics.
Nakeeb M Issadeen / August 2, 2019
Thanks for your sincere effort.
Appointment of lawyer as Quazi and registering all marriages are genuine and necessary proposals for the reform.
However, appointment of female Quazi and marriageable age of women let us leave it to the scholars of Quran and Hadeeth to contemplate.
Amarasiri / August 2, 2019
Ms. Shreen Abdul Saroor ,
RE: The Reform Of The MMDA & The Role Of The Ulamas
“What does ACJU want? The answer becomes clear when one looks carefully at the issues that ACJU is keen to block reforms in:
1. Female Quazis and requirement of Quazis being qualified lawyers.
2. Mandatory registration of marriage
3. Minimum age of marriage fixed at age 18”
Thanks for summarizing what is at stake for ACJU, the so-called Ulama, and their strategy.
Are they really people of knowledge? No, according to one of the greatest Islamic Judge, Jurist and Philosopher Mohamed Ibn Rushd.
Comment on 1. According to Ulama, women
have ½ brain. The Ulama are of low IQ and they can’t qualify as lawyers.
Comment on 2. They do not want the state to count the number of wives, a man has. This is Wahhabi tribal tradition.
Comment on 3. They want to be able to legally rape 12-year old girls.
The literal interpretation by the Ulama and the fundamentalists, was challenged by one of the greatest Islamic Scholars and Philosophers, Mohamed Ibn Rushd, in 12th Century Andalusia, Spain. The Ulama got the ruler, Caliph, to exile him, ban his works and burn his works.
Today, the Muslim MPs are puppets on strings, for the Ulama , and the Government MPs are puppets of the Muslim MPs and therefore, indirectly the puppets of the Ulama.. They all have no backbones, including the PM and the President,
A Land like no other, where the mean IQ is 79. Is this the Socialist Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka, or the Satan following Wahhabi Theocratic Dictatorship of Sri Lanka, with the Ulama as their agents.
Isharath / August 2, 2019
“1. According to Ulama, women have ½ brain”
I don’t mean to agree with Ulama here. But why you need Ulama to tell this when it’s no secret that women are underrepresented in various important sectors including sophisticated countries that are at the forefront of shouting “equal rights for women”. Are these countries controlled by Ulamas?
Is there a 50/50 male-female representation among scientists? World leaders? Pilots? Nobel Laureates? Astronauts? Doctors(I mean specialists)? Or any other specialties?
It might be because of Male Domination, if not, what? :-)
Eagle Eye / August 2, 2019
Since you ask, where is the 50/50 male female representation in areas such as porters at airports, bell hops at hotels and security guards? Easter Sunday blasts saw armed men from armed forces on guard duty outside important establishments such as schools, churches etc. Why were there no female soldiers performing guard duties, only body checks? It must be because of women being too picky is it not?
Isharath / August 3, 2019
Eagle Eye – “It must be because of women being too picky is it not?” – By nature, women are not built to do hard & tedious works; that maybe a reason. The reason they might not be going higher might be they have more responsibilities as mother than a father. So they stick to something average like teachers, MBBS doctors etc to balance the family & professional lives.
Manel Fonseka / August 2, 2019
Thank you Shreen for your fine exposure of the ACJU. It is important that we, non-Muslims, not only understand the problems that Muslim women face here, but also support them in their struggle to overcome the restrictions placed upon their lives by fundamentalist interpretations of their faith.
Sunil J Dahanayake / August 2, 2019
We do not need laws based on the ethnicity. The majority of Sri Lankans now say that we need only one legal system. That should be the final objective. That is the system operating in the developed countries like USA, UK, New Zealand and Australia.
If anybody wants to have separate laws based on their ethnicity, they can settle down in a country that support the respective legal system.
Reformist / August 2, 2019
A very informative and thought provoking article on the urgent need to protect women and children in our Community. As the author has pointed out the (un) learned, stubborn and insensitive Mufti is the stumbling block for the proposed amendments to see the light in the near future. I happened to see a post in Tamil attributed to his speech at the The National Conference on Peace and Harmony that is hilarious and reveals how shallow his thinking is on many matters. I give herewith a link to the said article and an excerpt from same.
Sahawalwu in Saudi Arabia. Does he know that Shias in the Easter Province of Saudi Arabia are a persecuted lot deprived of basic human rights. Teenage boys, to be precise a 12 year boy, are sentenced to death for merely participating in protest marches. Women who called on the government to lift restriction on women driving are languishing behind bars. The post under reference is proof that the Mufti is a committed Thowheed and is a paid agent of Saudi Arabia. He had using his influence and money filled all important state boards and institutions dealing with Islamic matters with his cronies and Aamam Saamys. Wakf board and the department of education are good examples. As long as this uneducated, business minded, insensitive male chauvinist remain as the President of ACJU you can expect spoke in the wheels and other form of obstacles. Apparently according news coming up the grape this man himself has taken a second wife from South India without the consent his wife. What more can you expect from such an individual to sympathetically view the womens’ cry for justice and FairPlay.
saurus / August 2, 2019
“The answer becomes clear when one looks carefully at the issues that ACJU is keen to block reforms in:
1. Female Quazis and requirement of Quazis being qualified lawyers
2. Mandatory registration of marriage
3. Minimum age of marriage fixed at age 18″
This crazy stone age cult was founded on the abuse of a 9 year old child by a 50 year old pervert. This cult will never agree to reform their stone age rituals and practices. No are they capable of accepting criticism. What else can you expect from a stone age cult whose teachings make lunatics go Allah Allah Rabadallah and blow up innocent children and worshippers in churches.
The solution for us Kafirs living in Sri Lanka is clear.
We cannot have a seperate law for a crazy cult
We cannot have Sri Lankan females be abused by old perverts following the teachings of an ancient pervert
We cannot have Sri Lankan children be genitally mutilated
We cannot have a seperate shariah law nonsense
We cannot have lunatics disturb our sleep with loudspeakers going Allah Allah Rabadallah at dawn
Us Kafirs need to vote in a strong national leader with a backbone who can control this crazy stone age cult which is now a clear and present danger to the country
Only 3 more months to go. I for one don’t want to see Palm Trees growing along Independence Avenue during my lifetime
Shafeek / August 2, 2019
Okay, let’s say Muslims follow a crazy cult that supports a man aged 50 to marry a girl as young as 9 years.
What is the number of such cases you have seen, or media has reported in reality among the Muslims? On the other hand, let’s not name any faith here, but I call it “sane cult” to make you happy; How many grand-fathers of sane cult abuse their grand-daughters as little as aged 4 on a monthly basis?
This is only a sample, if you take a local news paper, you would realize how retrograde the so called modern “sane cult” is becoming day-by-day. From infant abuse to grannies as old as 80+ abuses are reported, plus bonuses such as infant throwers, parents killers etc.
Anyway, I don’t want to get uncultured in a public forum getting into detail, but please see for yourself to estimate the cost to renovate, and help yourself first, while we at the “crazy cult” do the same. Best of Luck!
Idroos Fahmy / August 3, 2019
Saurus, “Us Kafirs need to vote in a strong national leader with a backbone who can control this crazy stone age cult”
R. Premadasa said call-to-prayer at dawn was very helpful for him to wake up early. Vote in your national leader, and he will say the same too, I bet.
Leader’s chair can see things that you don’t see being a low-minded racist. Sri Lanka shouldn’t anymore be considered just a remote island of people with isolated mindsets that has been failing since independence while other counter parts progress in the region. We need to move forward as a country, and (like many others) Muslims & Islamic countries are indispensable, and not like losing Tamil Nadu, or cannot be made enemies in this journey. As it is you have over slept, now start to wake up at dawn to put things right for future of your kids.
When you think people of other community as your enemy, you make yourself a curse on your kid’s future. You or your few barking racist friends can’t do anything to Muslims or Islam whose roots are unshakeable to even powerful nations.
Nirmalan Dhas / August 2, 2019
Best that women born muslims all refuse to marry muslim men unless and until the laws are changed.
Amarasiri / August 2, 2019
The women and girls, are chattel owned by the Wali, owner, a male “guardian “, who signs and gives away the woman and girl, to the man. The chattel do not sign, just like a goat does not sign when sold.
Per Quran, a women’s testimony is worth half as that of a man, and infers that a women has half a functioning brain, and therefore need two women, Quran 2:282.
Hadith, Mohammad’s Tradition
From Bukhari :
“If a man and woman are alone in one place, the third person present is the devil.”
“I was shown the hell-fire and that the majority of its dwellers were women who were ungrateful”
So, the Ulama are using a 7th Century map to get around a 21st Century City.
Ahmed / August 2, 2019
Amarasiri – “I was shown the hell-fire and that the majority of its dwellers were women who were ungrateful” why not fix a few cameras in-house and find out if Bukhari is right in 21st century too?
Amarasiri / August 2, 2019
The third person, according to the Hadith is the Devil Satan, Iblis. According to the Hadith of Najd, the Devil is from Najd, Saudi Arabia, the Wahhabis, their clones and agents, like the ACJU Ulama.
Get your camera and take pictures of the Wahhabis, their clones and their Ulama. Go and take some pictures of the ACJU Ulama.
Ralli / August 5, 2019
This Amarasiri is scared of in-house cameras. The devils reside inside such skulls.
Amarasiri / August 5, 2019
According to the prescient Hadith of Prophet Mohamed (Peace be upon him), we all know that the Wahhabies and their clones are the followers of Satan, Iblis, and the Devil, Satan, Iblis resides in the skulls of such followers. Examples are National Tauheed Jamat and others.
They are like the Trojan horses. Inside is the enemy of humanity, the Devil, Satan, Iblis.
Every Muslim and non-Muslim should make a prayer to the creator, please protect me from the followers of the Devil, Satan, the Wahhabis, Salafies and their clones Tauheed Jamat, Bono Haram, ISIS etc.
Ahmad Nadvi / August 2, 2019
Muslims girls are not even permitted to tell their parents (specially the fathers) they cannot marry until they finish their at least A/L or half done decree. Who dare you think they to tell ” until the law is changed”.
The ACJM ( I started using this sort of acronym after Dr. Ameer Ali’s article yesterday) started losing their Mullas’ stance as the ordinary Muslims see their “unlearned” attitudes in may things. The proposed changes will take place and the ACJM will once again put their heads down as they did in Halal and face covering issues etc.
JD / August 2, 2019
What this says, Muslims people can not and do not want to think for themselves. Marriage is the most important event one’s life. Muslims women has to go to the book to decide that but no one knows whether they follow the right or wrong. It looks every body is confused. Muslim men are not fighting even for their sisters and daughters. It looks very primitive. their behaviours are close to those aborigines. Even Aborigines have very developed cultures. A book decides the fate of muslim women. their parents or the woman can not decide. Mullahs, clerics, Maulavis decide because that is what the book says. Are these people intelligent or just at the beginning of a civilization Why people are this stupid. they do not have brains to think or why they are not allowed to think for them themselves. It looks muslims are very backward people.
Zain / August 2, 2019
ACJU, and it’s so called big headed boss Rizwie, are not either appointed or elected by the entire Muslims population of Sri Lanka to be their total voice or representatives for wholesale interfering in their day to day affairs. They are a collective of Ulamas but they too should accommodate and listen to other Muslims in the affairs of the Muslims of Sri Lanka. Fixing age limit for a marriage should be a must for marriage life is tough in the present day world. If the girls and boys have attained the right and required age, they would have mental and physical strength, stamina and the abilities to withstand pressures and demands of modern day marriage life. Request for women qauzis, and all qauzis’ to be educated, particularly in law are too a fair demands. From firsthand and through experience how so many of our innocent girls and their kids fell into difficulties owing to bad husbands and bad marriages, we demand that the government should passed this amendments without further delay, and the majority Muslims population too for it. It’s the AJCU, it’s big boss Rizwie, and no two penny worth so called Muslim politicians are playing hell with the lives of innocent girls and their kids.
Good Sense / August 3, 2019
The concerns of the rest of the community in Sri Lanka other than those who are Muslims is the appearance of Arabized version of a new culture finally culminating in suicide bomb attacks having an effect deadlier than the those of the LTTE. Business community whisper that levels of business has not yet reached the pre-Easter levels. Now ladies claim that they too must not be discriminated in getting Quazi appointments. Obviously now, the rest of the community must necessarily view all this with a very sharp eye since the whole thing has gone out of hand irreversibly disturbing the life style of Sri Lanka. Why must there be “judges” to judge only the personal affairs of a particular community? Now decisions are made, even in ecclesiastical affairs of faiths other than Islam in this country by judges who do not even belong to the respective faith. Naturally what is so special about one faith to be recognized as something special in this country only for personal matters to the extent of having judges of that faith. I understand that there is a law on personal matters for Muslims in India there are no special judges who should only belong to that faith. It is sad to note that there are allegations afoot that the Quazis in Sri Lanka have to follow the fanatical dictates of some self-appointed religious scholars. Imagine, if say, all Buddhist judges are under the thumb of fanatical yellow robed individuals, other religions will have no place in Sri Lanka to the extent that if a priest verbally abuses a judge in the court house the judge will have to patiently listen to the admonition instead of charging the priest for contempt of court and jailing him.
Roshanaly / August 6, 2019
If everything fails, the Muslim women should seek the help from BBS.