Court action falls foul of Qur'an - Muslims

The majority of South African Muslims are "incensed" by the government's intention to regulate their marriages.

So contend 34 traditional Muslim bodies who are fiercely opposed to an application before the Constitutional Court to force the government to initiate legislation for the legal recognition of Muslim marriages.

The application, which was brought by the Women's Legal Centre, was followed this week by the Justice Department's confirmation that the Muslim Marriages Bill would be put before the cabinet this week.

Addressing the Constitutional Court on behalf of the Lajnatun Nisaa-Il Muslimaat Association of Muslim Women in South Africa, male schoolteacher Farhan Patel said the initiation of the legislation "falls foul of the Qur'an".

"The Lajnatun Association will contend that the relief sought by the Women's Legal Centre constitutes a matter of a religious nature, and this honourable court must refrain from making decisions that will unnecessarily infringe on religious doctrine."

He added: "Muslims in their overwhelming majority do not engage in civil marriages, in an attempt to avoid the legal consequences arising from civil marriages."

Patel dismissed claims from Women's Legal Centre chairwoman Shaamela Cassiem that the state's failure to recognise Muslim marriages discriminated against Muslim women because it left them vulnerable.

"The majority of Muslim women abide by the Qur'an and do not perceive any violation of their rights when they submit to the rulings of Islamic religious forums which handle marital disputes," said Patel.

Earlier this week, justice spokes Zolile Nqayi said Justice Minister Enver Surty had met the Muslim Judicial Commission and United Ulama Council "to discuss the recognition of Muslim marriages in South Africa".

"The leadership expressed its support for the process under way and agreed that the Muslim Marriages Bill should be submitted to the cabinet," he said.

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