Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act : Amendments will match Shariah Law guidelines - Minister Abdul Haleem | Sunday Observer

Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act : Amendments will match Shariah Law guidelines - Minister Abdul Haleem

A meeting is to be held in Parliament in two weeks chaired by retired Supreme Court Judge Saleem Marsoof and Muslim Scholar and President of the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama, Rizwe Mufti to inform all members of parliament on the need to amend the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act, the Sunday Observer learns.

“I have spoken to Saleem Marsoof who was tasked with formulating the amendments many years ago and Rizwe Mufti who also concurs with the need to change and they said they have finalized the matter,” said Minister Abdul Haleem, who heads the Ministry of Muslim Religious Affairs and Postal services.

“I hope to summon all members of parliament to a meeting chaired by these two members so that everyone in the house is aware of the changes that are being proposed,” he said.

Minister Haleem added that it was crucial all members of parliament were aware of the changes and the need thereof, so they would not be misguided by the protests. “Once that meeting is over, we will call all heads of Muslim organizations including the Sri Lanka Thawheed Jama’ath (SLTJ) for discussions.”

Minister Haleem, however, added that any change to the Act would be done in keeping with the guidelines of Shariah Law.

He added that the matter had nothing to do with the GSP plus or EU, as it was off a broader constitutional reform for the community.

The call to amend Muslim Personal Law sparked a debate within the community which intensified into protest led by the SLTJ who claimed that stipulating a minimum age for marriage was impractical.

They charged that since other customary laws such as Thesawalamai and Kandyan laws remained unchanged so should the Muslim marriage and Divorce Act.

Despite the outcry, several Muslim organizations have been vocal of their support for the amendments including the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka (MCSL) and the ACJU. “This is not the first time the government has appointed a committee to look into the matter,” said Minister Haleem. “This time all Muslim MPs have been made members to have a more inclusive broad based consultation and conclusion.” Since 1951, the government has appointed four committees to make the laws. The last committee appointed in 2009 was headed by former Supreme Court Judge Saleem Marsoof, Lawyer and the Minister Faiz Mustapha, the former 37th Attorney General of Sri Lanka Shibly Aziz, Ash-Sheikh Mubarak, the founder of the Muslim Women’s Research and Action Forum (MWRAF), the President of the Sri Lanka Muslim Women’s Conference (SLMWC) Jezima Ismail and Attorney at Law and Member of the Muslim Women’s Research and Action Forum Safana Gul Begum as members.

This time round, Local Government and Provincial Councils Minister Faizer Mustapha, Minister for Water Supply and Drainage Rauff Hakeem, Minister of Public Enterprise Development Kabir Hashim, Muslim Religious Affairs Minister Abdul Haleem and other members of parliament are part of the committee.

They are to report to Minister of Justice Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe with a final report. 

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