1 December, 2021

Blog

Unveiling The MMDA

By Hilmy Ahamed

Hilmy Ahamed

The hate campaign against Muslims in Sri Lanka seems to be taking a new turn, with a few child rights activists blaming the Muslims of promoting child marriages. Muslim bashing has become the norm in webinars and social media these days.

The hue and cry on Muslim kids marrying at 12 and 15 is a myth, stage managed to create a public outcry against Muslim Personal Laws and the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA). Regretfully, Muslim bashing is endorsed by probably 30 Muslim women who seem to think that the absolute majority of Muslims are not clever enough to understand what is human rights or child rights. A few isolated cases of Muslims marrying under 15 years are highlighted in a campaign to show Muslim laws are the reason for child marriages. I challenge the so called child rights activists to show evidence that there is a disproportionate number of Muslim child marriages.

Our Population censuses of 2012 gives the following facts:

Marriages below 15 yrs -Total – 3,204, amongst them Sinhalese- 2200, Tamils- 511, Muslims – 471, Others- 22. Marriages in the 16-19 age group – 87,633, Sinhalese- 62,630, Tamils- 12,642, Muslims-11,916, Others-445. Look at the statistics, Muslims with their so called ‘archaic’ laws have the least number of child marriages. Nothing to be proud of, I admit. But it is a glaring fact that it isn’t a Muslim problem but a national problem.

The World Health Organisation says “about 16 million girls between the ages of 15 to 19 and, two million girls under the age of 15 give birth every year”. BUT here in Sri Lanka, some of our so-called activists see this as a Muslim problem. I invite them to walk along the Unawatuna beach where one may see little girls with child. They’re prevented by law to marry the man of their choice until they’re 18, but allowed to carry the burden and responsibilities of having a child out of wedlock. Why is this then made to look like a Muslim problem?

There are a few Muslim women activists who have lost the battle to repeal the MMDA. They have now coaxed some non-Muslims to look at MMDA as a women’s/child rights issue. I see this as an extension to the hate campaign that has been unleashed by some extremists who use racism against the Muslim community for their personal and political agenda. These activists had got a BBC Sinhala service reporter to produce a video on a supposedly battered child, who had been forced into a marriage by her parents. The story is narrated only from the girl’s perspective and no attempt has been made to reach out to the husband or interviewed an independent person to verify the facts of this girl’s marriage and divorce. I was wondering how the BBC had relegated itself to this kind of deplorable journalism without adhering to the basic journalistic principles of ethical and fair reporting which they have always upheld. The reporter has obviously produced the video to play on the emotions of the viewer.

As we all know, the BBC is the most respected broadcaster in the world and the BBC Sinhala service reporter has used that label to call his video an investigative report, but for me, this is no different to the racism and hate messaging of Wanda Pethi, Wanda Kottu, ‘Wanda inducing’ underwear, Dr Shafi’s Fallopian Saga or the general hate campaign orchestrated by the BBS and some persons clad in the esteemed yellow robe, calling themselves Buddhist monks.

What stuck me most was that the girl in the BBC video was given her divorce because of MMDA. Under General Marriage Registration Ordinance (GMRO), sexual or physical violence is no grounds for a divorce. In a Quazi court, the male or female need not give any reason for their separation. They can even say “I don’t like to live with him/her”. Lawyers cannot appear in a Quazi Court and there are no unnecessary delays are caused by legal arguments and no cost.

Do child marriages take place only among Muslims? Do we know how many children are born out of wedlock in Sri Lanka? Do we know how many are raped every day in this country? Have we not heard the story of the 4 year old Kid Seya who was abducted, raped and killed by a maniac. Did we not hear of the 15 year old who was sold as a virgin by her own mother to several VIPs for their sexual and sadistic pleasure. Did we not hear about Dilani Madusika Rajanayake, the 10-year-old girl who was raped for over one year by six persons including members of her own family. None of these perpetrators were Muslim.

How many cases of child abuse are reported to the child protection authority everyday? How many thousands of cases go unreported? Check the statistics of incest, rape and child abuse at the child protection authority. One could make hundreds of investigative videos that will make many hearts weep.

Of course the Quazi court too has its own share of corruption and malpractices as elsewhere in Sri Lanka. There are reports of bribery, influence peddling and seeking of sexual bribes. The Judicial Services Commission should monitor and address these short comings and reform the Quazi system. The Ranjan Ramanayake leaks about our justice system spells out the flaws in our justice system.

In today’s world of consumerism, gender inequality has taken vast strides in widening the distance between the ordinary woman and the so-called empowered. Emancipation of women no doubt is the only way forward. The pluralist character of Sri Lankan society is mirrored in the multitude of religious communities that inhabit this country. The existence of different personal laws in the form of the Kandyan, Thesavalamai and the Muslim Personal Law epitomises the ethos of our multicultural island Nation. Muslim Marriage laws have been practiced in Sri Lanka for over a thousand years, from the time Arab traders married Sinhala women. The Dutch brought the Mohammedan code from Indonesia over 300 years ago and the current Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act became part of the constitutional right of Muslims in 1951. I am sure all will agree, these need to be protected as religious and cultural rights. As rights activists, I call upon the reformists to be in the forefront to protect the religious rights of minorities. While I agree on the insistence of gender equality and children’s rights, no one should attempt to compromise religious and cultural rights of a minority that is guaranteed by our constitution.

The political rhetoric of ‘One Country One Law’ should be about equal justice for everyone and not exploit it to prevent people from practicing their faith. Failure to uphold the rights of all peoples will result in ‘ONE COUNTRY ONE RELIGION’! The government’s strong statements of multi ethnic, multi cultural, multi religious democracy in Geneva and New York will only be empty rhetoric. I hope the wise parliamentarians will study attempts to repeal Muslim Personal Laws and reject them toto should it ever reach Parliament.

The Quazi Courts

The Quazi court is a consultative body that attempts to reconcile couples who are in conflict. The primary role of the Quazi is to reconcile any conflict among married couples and to discourage divorce. From the 1950s, the Quazis were volunteers who commanded the respect of their constituencies. They are known to have even visited the couples in conflict, their parents and village elders and advice them to mend any differences so that the couple may continue with the marriage. If all efforts failed, he would grant them a divorce as prescribed in Islam. This process would take not more than 6 months, whereas under the GMRO a divorce process can take several years and huge legal costs. The Quazi court doesn’t cost a cent for both men and women because the lawyers are not allowed to appear before a Quazi. In the common courts, we all know the better lawyer wins. Their argument would not be about the couple reconciling but to win for their client. How many of our rural sisters can afford the huge legal fees.

Polygamy

This is contentious and an often misunderstood issue. It is portrayed as an opportunity for lustful men to satisfy their sexual urge with multiple women. Islam has allowed polygamy in the Quran for valid reasons based on circumstances. In ancient times, there was a need for war widows to be provided guardianship as well as means of living. In todays context, it helps women who are spinsters, widows or divorcees to marry if they so wish, and live in dignity. There is no major stigma among Muslims for those who have more than one wife. The absence of the option of marriage would leave some women vulnerable and with no choice if they wished to marry for reasons that could be emotional, financial, physical or social. Islam forbids prostitution or extra marital relationships and any physical relationships outside marriage is taboo. The lack of legal recognition and security through marriage is the fate of the woman who wishes to marry, but is prevented from doing so for the lack of unmarried men and a bar to polygamy under the GMRO.

The current law in Sri Lanka does not prohibit two consenting single adults to live together or even have children out of wedlock. Most of these women could be abandoned while a Muslim woman in a polygamous marriage has all her rights of inheritance upon death of the husband or alimony if divorced. The banning of polygamy would only the endanger the right of a woman who chooses to enter marriage.

Female Quazis

While some Islamic scholars are not in agreement, many have accepted that the Quazi courts could appoint suitably qualified males or females. This should satisfy the Muslim reformists whose principal demand has been the appointment of females as Quazis.

Age of Marriage

It has been agreed by Muslims to raise the age of marriage to 18. Muslim girls too should benefit from at least 13 years of primary and secondary education. There should be provisions both in MMDA and GMRO where a judge or Quazi be able to grant permission for 16-18 year olds to marry under exceptional circumstances. We should also lobby for the age of consent for sex to be 18 to be in par with the minimum age for marriage; or else it would mean that Sri Lanka promotes living together and children out of wedlock, which goes against the cultural norms of Sri Lankans.

Signing of the Marriage registry

Currently, the father or a male paternal blood relative who the girl trusts, needs to seek the permission of the bride in the presence of two witnesses to sign on her behalf in her marriage registration. This practice is to negotiate the terms of marriage on behalf of the girl and ensure the best terms for her in contracting a marriage. Now there is general consensus in the Muslim community that the bride too can sign the marriage registry if she chooses to do so.

The MMDA needs to be studied by people of other faiths without believing the rhetoric of a few so called rights activists. They will no doubt see the merits of it and may even want to adopt the same laws for their marriages and divorce. For example, under GMRO, there are only three reasons that one could get a divorce:

1. Adultery subsequent to marriage,

2. Malicious desertion,

3. Incurable impotency at the time of marriage.

There are a few who think that they can find solutions to the inadequacies of the Quazi Court system by repealing Muslim Personal Laws and shifting the Muslim Marriage And Divorce issues to the district courts. There are also a few hundred women who feel that the MMDA and MPL are archaic and should be abolished. If they feel they are archaic and don’t want to marry under the MMDA, they are free to follow the proposal by Justice Minister Ali Sabry to allow anyone who wishes to marry under GMRO to do so. They should leave the MMDA for those Muslims who want to take their marriage vows under their religious laws and abide by Quranic guidance.

Sri Lanka’s prominent Jurist, Late Justice Weeramantry has written extensively on Islamic jurisprudence as he admired the legalism entrenched in it. Of course, these laws do require some reform to conform to the progress of modern administrative and procedural processes. While the Muslim community is happy to see reforms in the MMDA with the consultation of stakeholders in the community, repeal or repeal in the guise of reform will not be acceptable.

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Latest comments

  • 2
    1

    Yes, I get the points you’ve made, Hilmy.
    .
    I try to be consistent. See what I’ve said about MMDA here:
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/mmda-rhetoric-pretensions/
    .
    I’ve skimmed through your article. Where’s the time to read everything that is theoretically deserved to be studied in detail?
    .
    I have the impression that Justice Saleem Marsoof who went into the details of reforming MMDA is both intelligent and decent.
    .
    All humans are fallible, but I try to be reasonable. Is my comment one that makes you happy? If it is so, I hope that you get more comments that are reasonable.
    .
    Panini Edirisinhe of Bandarawela

    • 2
      0

      The Sinhala Buddhist Los Angeles Diaspora and US citizen Basil and Goat Rajapakse Brothers who follow orders of the Deepstate and CIA has been Weaponized against the people of Lanka.
      Now that the Covid-19 hoax and Pfizer Vaccine corruption racket and looting of the Kerawelapitiya power plant while the county was kept in lockdown is exposed they are playing the old card of Divide , DISTRACT, and Rule the different ethnic and religious communities in Sri Lanka as all over Asia and Africa.
      Hilmy Have you read the book:
      The ISIS is US: The Shocking Truth behind the Army of Terror? ISIS was set up by the CIA after invasion of Iraq to destroy Syria? Also please read the book ‘COLD WAR MONKS: Buddhism and America’s Secret Strategy in Southeast Asia” Including Sri Lanka and Burma. published by Yale University Press. Both Islam and Buddhism are being WEAPONIZED to destroy the rise of Asia and make America Great Again!
      Why are the USAID funded Colombo NGO ladies silent about Basil and Goat’s US CIA LA ROOTS, rather than the Rajapaksa dessicration and abomination against Buddhism with Gnyanasara ?

      • 0
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        Thanks Dinik. Will check on the books.

    • 0
      0

      Thank you for your comments and appreciate taking the tone to read it

  • 5
    2

    As per your fairy tale, Arabs traders came here and married Sinhalese women and produced Tamil speaking Muslims who mostly speak a South Indian dialect of Tamil not Sinhalese or Arabic as expected to be, even 72% of the majority living deep inside the Sinhalese lands. Until two or three decades ago before the Arabization craze took hold, these supposedly Arab Sinhalese mixtures were not following any Arabic nor Sinhalese customs but were strangely and exclusively practising Tamil Islamic customs, having Tamil Islamic caste names like Marrikar, Lebbe, Rawther, Kayalar, Thambi and following an Indian form of Sufi Islam. Whom are you trying to fool with these fairy tales? Sri Lankan Muslims are immigrant converted Tamil Hindus from South India, who only started to arrive on the island around the 14Th century, fleeing Hindu persecution, after the fall of the brief Madurai Delhi Sultanate rule in the South Indian Tamil country that was replaced by the Hindu Vijayanagar rule. They started to arrive and settle in the then Tamil north-west coast of the island. However, the vast majority of them arrived on the island during the early British rule. Now DNA has also proved this. The Muslims living on the island hardly arrived from the Arabian Gulf but from South Asia which means they are Dravidian Tamil converts to Islam, with a little bit of Arab infusion, which occurred in their original home land in South India and not here.

    • 4
      3

      Please do not distort history or facts to justify your extremist agenda. Granted the President and this government are racists but so are you another Islamic hardliner. Who constantly runs down your actual South Indian Tamil origin and heritage and run behind the Sinhalese and Arabs all in the name of Islam. A few Arab emissaries to the courts of Sinhalese and Tamil kings have nothing to do with the local converted Tamil Muslims from South India who only started to trickle down to the island from South India from the 14Th century onwards and this trickle became a flood during the British rule. Most of the Muslims who originally arrived around the 14Th century and were persecuted by the Portuguese and later the Sinhalese fled to the Tamil east. Very few remained in the Sinhalese areas, however, we now see 72% of the island’s Muslims living in the Sinhalese south. These are all later arrivals who migrated to the island during the early British colonial era from South India. Thousand years and descended from Arab traders and Sinhalese women but strangely still speaking South Indian Tamil dialects and following Tamil Islamic customs that are practised in Tamil Nadu. Indeed.

      • 4
        4

        Rohan25,
        “Please do not distort history or facts to justify your extremist agenda.”
        —–
        If Tamils can distort history of Sinhale in Vadukkodei Resolution to justify their claim for a separate State, why can’t Muslims do the same?

    • 5
      3

      Has your comment got anything to do with Mr. Hilmy’s arguments in support of the MMDA.

      • 4
        3

        Yes, it does as he constantly misleads starting from the fake origin of the Sri Lankan Muslims. Will never admit to the fact that they are of Tamil Dravidian origin but will keep on boasting about minuscule amounts of Arab Sinhalese and any other heritage they have.

      • 0
        0

        Thanks Dinik. Will check on the books.

  • 2
    6

    Hilmy Ahamed, you have done a marvelous job in speaking what is in the hearts and minds of the majority of the Muslim community. I applaud you for the sentiments expressed and for your bold and well written article. We have been the brunt of a racist campaign by these so-called women’s activists, who have tried very hard to shame us by name and tarnish our image and the image of the organisation I am part of – Touch Me Not. They think we will be silenced by their hate campaign, you have shown them that you are a fearless warrior. Kudos to you, Hilmy Ahamed.

  • 4
    1

    Brother Hilmi Ahamed
    .
    According to the Census data quoted by you, “Muslims with their so called ‘archaic’ laws have the least number of child marriages”. Unfortunately, a larger(smaller) number does not necessarily mean that a specific ethnic group is affected to a greater(lesser) extent by a specific characteristic in comparison with other groups. This is a common error made by many Muslim writers in defence of child marriage.
    .
    The EXTENT to which a specific group is affected by a particular ‘attribute’ is measured NOT by the NUMBERS of members of the group who have contracted the attribute, BUT by the PROPORTION of such members. This is referred to as the ‘Prevalence’ of the attribute in the group.
    .
    The Prevalence Rate of a particular attribute in a specific group
    = Number of persons affected by that attribute in the group / Total number of persons in the group.

    • 5
      0

      In the case of the attribute ‘Child Marriage’ :
      .
      The estimated Prevalence Rates per 100,000 Females classified by Ethnic Group and Age Group are as follows :
      .
      12 to Less than 15 years of age
      Sinhalese – 700
      Tamil – 766
      Muslim – 875
      .
      15 to Less than 18 years of age
      Sinhalese – 10,681
      Tamil – 9,636
      Muslim – 11,183
      .
      12 to Less than 18 years of age
      Sinhalese – 5,621
      Tamil – 5,202
      Muslim – 5,836
      .
      It is evident from the above data that in all three age-groups, the Prevalence Rates of ‘Child Marriage’ are highest for the Muslim Community in Sri Lanka, according to the 2012 Census data.
      .
      The Preference Rates are expressed as ‘per 100,000 Females’ instead of the usual ‘%’ (i.e. per 100) so that the differences between the three Ethnic Groups are emphasized more sharply.
      .
      The above has been quoted from the article titled : ‘The Prevalence of Child Marriage in Sri Lanka’ posted in Bisthan Batcha’s blog based on the 2012 Census data.

      • 4
        0

        Even if other races practise child marriage, if you’re a criminal, then pointing your finger at other races and other criminals does not excuse you of your crime. There are many people who make excuses for criminals of their own race and who severely criticise criminals of other races.

      • 0
        0

        @ekellbroom, there are comments worth responding and others must be ignored.
        Use Hikma

      • 0
        0

        Dear Ekelbroom,
        Great – you have swept away an attempt to justify a position by use of figures not in context.
        Anyway, my contention is that irrespective of divisions, adults need to think (as they are the ones in control) whether ANY child marriage needs to take place. Children cannot act on their own – so it behoves on adults in control, to ensure correct action. Every instance is a crime, (and crime is prevalent all over) irrespective of race or religion, but Muslim Law gives an extra impetus and licence in this regard.

      • 0
        0

        This is total distortion of facts. Check the 2012 census report

        • 0
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          Brother Hilmy Ahamed
          .
          Please check :
          .
          http://www.statistics.gov.lk/pophousat/cph2011/pages/activities/reports/finalreport/population/finalpopulation.pdf
          .
          This is the document titled
          Census of Population – 2012 Sri Lanka
          Population Tables
          .
          Please go to Table A11 : Population by Ethnic Group, Marital Status, Age & Sex on Page 29. You will find the same data as that which you have quoted in your article.
          .
          The original article in Bisthan Batcha’s blog clearly states that his analyses are estimates based on the Census data. He has focused sharply on Females,12 – 17 years and excluded Females 18 – 19 years old as they do not belong to the category of ‘Child Brides’.
          .
          There is a major difference between the Number of Persons possessing a specific attribute and the Prevalence Rate of that attribute in a particular group of Individuals.
          .
          I strongly recommend that you consult a numerate professional in this regard to verify the veracity of the above statement.
          .
          I realize that the end result that the “Prevalence Rates of ‘Child Marriage’ are highest for the Muslim Community in Sri Lanka” is a very bitter pill for many Muslims to swallow, but rejecting such findings offhand as a ‘total distortion of fact’ is not the best way to move forward.

  • 4
    2

    This same person was quoting fake data stating 200000-300000 Muslim civilians were displaced from the north when in reality it was only 60000. He was using this figure and he and some Muslim organisations were deliberately and diabolically going around certain powerful western embassies in Colombo, urging them to settle this number of Muslims in the north, with the sinister motive of converting large parts of the north, where no Muslims ever lived into Muslim predominant areas. Came here and was openly supporting what happened at Richard’s house with regards to the death of the poor estate Tamil housemaid. In another article, I read, this person stated the indigenous Tamils in the Amparai district despite being 20% owned a lot of lands and the local Muslims who only arrived here a few centuries ago should endeavour and use any means to try to get these Tamil lands for themselves. Such is this person’s calibre.

    • 3
      2

      Rohan25,
      “This same person was quoting fake data stating 200000-300000 Muslim civilians were displaced from the north when in reality it was only 60000.”
      —-
      Muslims have learnt from Tamils to exaggerate.

      • 0
        1

        Most probably from Sinhalese Buddhist extremists and fascists like you, who are very good at exaggerating, concocting history, misinforming and misleading. You constantly do it here.

  • 3
    1

    //There are a few Muslim women activists who have lost the battle to repeal the MMDA//

    I don’t think that the repealing/amending attempts are because of “few women”. But it’s been a necessary fact due to malpractice of Qadis, undue delay, favours to men, bribery and the list goes on and on.

    Previously in 2009/2010 the setting of minimum age(18 years) to marry, appointing woman Qadi and more importantly bride giving her consent by signing in the marriage register were not accepted by Muslim community( more rightly ACJU and persons who want to keep the MMDA unchanged or with little changes as you suggest) And I wonder how these things are acceptable now some 11 years later.

  • 4
    1

    Zaharan’s wife (Bomber) was a child bride.. imagine Hilmy if ur bride is more knowledgeable / educated she may stop u from killing Catholics..

    Muslims need to evolve – always ur looking at 600AD for laws – which have not evolved and men dont like u dont want to evolve . Theh Hilmy during mohamad’s time no internet, u should stop using the net or smartphones, vaccines etc dont u think? as ur allaha and hadiths dont have them?

    If not since we dont have a war, why u need polygamy ? ur argument is falling .. Ur trying to keep a male dominant misogynistic (definition -strongly prejudiced against women) alive and keep status quo..

    More and more such leeches will start coming out now – as they see the rules are to change !!

  • 2
    1

    Muslims don’t need MMDA to have child marriages. The Muslim Quran says that men are allowed to have an unlimited number of female slaves and men can rape their slaves unlimitedly. And of course, there is no minimum age for female slaves.

    • 0
      0

      Dear Mo.
      ….” The Muslim Quran says that men are allowed to …….. rape their slaves unlimitedly.”…….
      So this leaves a Muslim to plead that in an action against rape, he can plead ‘religious conscience’ before court and that he acted so ?

  • 1
    0

    No ethnicty no birthrights .

    Now dead fish all of us .

    Only 2 choices .

    (1)request Saudi for immigration as we have shun our ethnic identity of our ancestors that was from pre Islam and adopted Saudi attire and religion as our new identity only about 30 years old, no.choice, so we go with the flow .* (1 country – 2 law)

    You can not have it both ways..

    Even Arabs todate identify themselves only by their Ethnicity and nationality not by their religion.

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