A group of PE based scholars have intervened in the court application of the Women’s Legal Centre (WLC), arguing that the Muslim Marriage Bill (MMB) is not in the best interest of the Muslim community. The centre lodged the application on Tuesday to urge President Jacob Zuma to enact the controversial bill into law.
Acting on behalf of a group claiming to be the *United Ulema Council of South Africa (UUCSA), Gauteng based advocate Zehir Omar cited in court papers that Shari’ah Law cannot be subservient to Constitutional law.
“All laws that made by parliament in our country is subservient to our constitution. That means if our parliament makes a law that conflicts with the constitution of our country then that law will either be made unlawful or it will be adjusted to conform to our constitution. For example, Quran provides that only a man can pronounce the talaq. That is considered unconstitutional which means in terms of the law which the WLC wants enacted, talaq will be unconstitutional,” Omar argued.
In relation to these terms, Omar said that should the bill be passed, the law as expressed in the Quran and Shari’ah would have to adapt to conform to the laws expressed in the South African Constitution and international law.
“Whatever is deemed to be discriminatory in the Quran [would have to be] adjusted,” Omar added.
Another activist opposed to the bill said allowing the Constitution to dictate the teachings of Shari’ah law, will be like “mixing oil and water”.
But WLC attorney Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker is adamant that proponents of the bill do not aim to water down Shari’ah laws. She refused to weigh into a debate over Omar’s claims, saying rather that the centre was focused on building a legal framework that would provide legal consequences for men who had failed to meet their marital responsibilities.
“Women are suffering, their needs must be addressed. There are many cases where Muslim women have found themselves in difficult positions and have desperately turned to the courts for relief and there have been judgements which were granted in Muslim Marriages but no legal framework in place,” Abrahams-Fayker said.
The application has been postponed to June. In the meantime, WLC has encouraged women to come forward with their stories, to prove to the court that this particular framework is needed.
*This UUCSA does not represent the mainstream ulema bodies in the country, who have also laid claim to this name. Maulana A.S Desai of Port Elizabeth is said to have fraudulently registered the name with the Trade Marks Office in 2013. There is a currently a legal dispute between the two ulema factions, who have accused the Desai of usurping the UUCSA name to further division and confusion in the community. VOC (Ra’eesah Isaacs)