IGC Will Implement Islamic Law in Personal Status
Earlier this year, the Interim Governing Council abolished secularism. This is an item I hadn’t come across at the time, and it doesn’t seem to have attracted much press. The IGC has allowed Iraqis to follow religious law in personal status matters. This practice is common in the Middle East. For instance, in Lebanon, Maronite Christians are married and buried according to Catholic law, whereas Muslims are under their Islamic law or shariah. Religious personal status law can, however, extend to issues such as inheritance and other property matters. Having diverse religious laws govern such matters can create inequities.
I remember when a Coptic man in Egypt sued to be allowed to take a second wife, just as Muslim Egyptian men can. He was told “no” by the courts, since he was under Coptic personal status law, which requires monogamy.
If the personal status law is extended to inheritance, it will hurt Sunni Muslim women, who get only 1/2 the amount that their brothers receive from the estate of a deceased father. Actually, Shiite law is slightly better on female inheritance than the Sunni, since Shiites supported the property claims of the Prophet’s daughter Fatimah, against the Caliph Omar. But either way, women are not treated as equal to men. If religious law goes further and influences things like court procedure, Muslim fundamentalists will use it to ensure that women’s testimony is worth only half that of a man (their literalist and decontextualized reading of the Koran). This rule, common in places like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, makes it virtually impossible for a woman to get her rapist convicted unless she has a male witness.