Plea to recognise Muslim Nikah marriages
Johannesburg - Muslim communities are pleading with Parliament to pass a bill that recognises their marriages by South African law as they feel that this will be important to assist women whose spouses have been killed as a result of the coronavirus.
Speaking to Independent Media on Thursday on behalf of the South African Muslim Council, lawyer Nkazimulo Qaaim Moyeni said the bill had been sitting idle for years with Parliament not doing anything to pass it into an act.
“Our issue with not recognising Muslim marriages is that in polygamous marriage (in Muslim culture) the first wife is automatically registered under customary marriage with Home Affairs and the other wives are not recognised and they are unable to claim anything that the husband leaves behind when he passes away,” said Moyeni.
He was responding to Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi who told Parliament this week that “a marriage entered into in terms of Muslim rites is thus far not recognised in South Africa”.
Motsoaledi was responding to a written Parliamentary question by Al Jama-ah leader Ganief Hendricks.
Moyeni said Muslim communities had been struggling for the past 20 years to get their marriages recognised by the Department of Home Affairs.
He said currently couples who get married through Muslim rites and go to court to get their relationship registered under their religious law would find themselves recognised under the Religious/Customary Law, which only protects one wife.
He said a promising move was made after Western Cape High Court had last year ruled in favour of marriage by Muslim rites, and ordered the Cabinet to within 12 days work on passing the bill into an act.
“But the Cabinet has not been able to do that till this day. We feel marginalised as the Muslim community.
“We have seen the progress of same-sex marriages and customary marriages. We have seen the progress in government exhausting assets in making sure it stretches itself in allowing participants in different communities using changes in-laws in other countries to see how they find their way around recognising these (same-sex and customary) marriages,” he said.
Moyeni said in case of a divorce women who were married under the Islamic rites were not protected as they were not recognised by law.
“This has put so many of them in jeopardy and in a situation where they lose out on things that they have a right to claim.
“So we believe that the government should exercise and stretch itself as much as they did for same-sex and customary marriages and realise that Muslim law is as flexible as any other legal framework and can allow and cooperate and work hand-in-hand with the constitution and with the South African law,” he said.
He said the bill that had been collecting dust needed to be engaged openly within the Muslim communities and by legal experts.
“The government needs to engage, have conversations and open communication and discussion with the various Muslim communities.
He said recognising Muslim marriage would be in the good spirit of the country’s constitution as Muslim communities had contributed towards the country’s democracy and its progress.