Many believe that Sharia marriage laws are oppressive to women and yet, it seems that even Australian Muslims (including women) want to embrace this ancient law.
The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) want Muslims to be able to marry, divorce and conduct financial transactions under the principles of Sharia Law. In a submission to the Federal Parliament’s Committee on Multicultural Affairs, the Federation has asked for the change. It argues that all Australians would benefit if Islamic laws were adopted as mainstream legislation. However, that is not a view shared by many other contributors to the usually low-profile committee.
It has received hundreds of submissions on the topic. Ikebal Patel, president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, agrees the very word “sharia” could invoke notions of a fierce, unjust, and male-dominated legal code.
Even the popular belief that sharia marriage laws are oppressive towards women are wrong, Mr Patel asserts. Rather Sharia guarantees women’s rights that are not recognised in mainstream Australian courts, he said.
But author Ida Lichter, who has written on the lives of Muslim women in both the West and predominantly Islamic countries, disagrees.
“The members of the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation in Britain have drawn attention to these oppressive laws that they escaped by migrating to the West, and they’ve said that women are much better under legislation based on universal human rights,” she said.
Law lecturer Ghena Krayem, who has researched the issue of legal pluralism, says the Islamic community does not want a parallel legal system set up.
“[We] found that there’s no evidence from any community leaders of any desire to set up a parallel legal system and I think to pose the question in that way presupposes this assumption that the Muslim community wants an alternative or parallel legal system,” she said.
Rather Ms Krayem says some of the processes around legal matters such as divorce and inheritance could take on board Muslim notions of dialogue and alternative dispute resolution, but the law should service all community members alike. Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland has ruled out any chance of sharia law being introduced to Australia