The Draft Bill on Muslim Marriages – which is to be published in the Government Gazette shortly for public comment after it was passed by cabinet a month ago – is too cumbersom for the public to read and should be scaled down from 24 to five pages. According to Ganief Hendricks, leader of the Al Jamah party, speaking to VOC on Wednesday, there were still lingering concerns about the bill that needed to be addressed.
“We can find some way to have in place legislation that will give full legal consequences to Muslim marriages,” Hendricks told Breakfast Beat. “We feel that the answer is in the Superior Courts Bill. The Muslim Marriages Bill must be scaled down to about 5 pages so that it is merely a piece of enabling legislation and amends other laws which stands in the way of giving legal consequences to Muslim marriages.”
This includes the Deeds Registry Act, Intestate Succession Act and Maintenance of Surviving Spouses Act. Hendricks said the amendments to these Acts “is a simple line which says ‘Marriage includes a Muslim marriage’. Administrative procedures with regard to registration and dissolution of marriages must be retained.”
Al Jamah has made a submission for a Muslim Bench in terms of the Superior Courts Bill which will be law early this year. “This submission has the approval of the MJC and we have opinion from senior council that it has constitutional muster. There is also interest from other political parties in the submission. We will invite them to a briefing to get their support as they will vote for or against any proposal for a Muslim Bench.”
According to Hendricks, his party has been asked by imams, community leaders, organizations and Muslim legal practioners as well as the public to brief them on the bill. “This will all happen in the first week of February so everyone is welcome. We have been asked to give a briefing to members of the MJC and await their dates. We have also been invited by the controversial Ulema in Port Elizabeth to give them a briefing and Muslims in Katlehong wants a briefing,” he reported, adding that all their provincial branches will also be briefed.
Hendricks said the principles of their submission formed part of the party’s manifesto in the 2009 national elections. “Nearly 30,000 Muslims voted in favour of it. We will have our first public briefing in a pre-khutba talk at the Dorp Street Mosque on 21 January insha – Allah.”
In response to cabinet’s call for public comments on the bill, Al Jamah has pledged to print their comments and makeit available to the public. “It will also be online on our website. Comments on our submission by anyone will also be sent to the cabinet before the deadline,” he said.
According to Hendricks, the party has numerous concerns about the bill which he set out below:
- “It makes members of the Ulema who fall foul of the Muslim Marriages Bill criminals even if their action is Shariah complaint.
- “The cabinet has taken the administration and adjudication of disputes relating to Muslim Marriages out of the hands of the Muslim community and the Ulema.
- “It dabbles in ecclesiastical matters that is hardly the domain of a Parliament in a secular country.
- “The Bill will be divisive which is the plan of the enemies of Islam. Just like we have two Labarangs for Eid ul Adha we will have two forms of Muslim marriages.”
The deadline for comments is unofficially 28 February 2011 and Al Jamah urged the Muslim community to send their comments to the cabinet before they send it to parliament. “The views of organizations are well known, but more needs to be done to get the views of people on the ground,” Hendricks said. VOC