Monday, September 10, 2007

Progressive developments

The convening of the Sharia judiciary conference in Amman last week was an occasion not only to discuss the progressive development of the Sharia judiciary system The issue that was often faced when considering periodic reports from Muslim and Arab countries by various treaty bodies was whether the Sharia provisions are open for more enlightened interpretation so that they may not remain contrary to international human rights standards.
Some Arab countries have indeed begun to interpret the Sharia in a manner which is harmonious with international norms, especially on matters touching on women’s rights and equal gender treatment. Tunisia, for example, has abolished polygamy, not so much in repudiation of the Sharia but rather in a progressive reinterpretation of the Sharia in a manner that is consistent with international human rights conventions.
Tunisia has pointed out that Islam does not really condone polygamy since the acceptance of polygamy is made conditional on respect and equal treatment of spouses, something that the Koran itself stipulates is not possible.
Sharia principles on women’s rights and gender discrimination should receive the attention they deserve during meetings on the progressive development of the Sharia judiciary, so that a more enlightened interpretation of the Islamic law can be codified and applied by Arab and Muslim judiciaries everywhere in the world.
This is the right thing to do in order for discrimination against women in Muslim and Arab countries to end once and for all.

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