‘Appointment of women judges should set an example’

Source: The Star Online

Noor Huda Roslan, who was recently appointed Syariah High Court judge in Selangor. Pic taken from The Star Online.
Noor Huda Roslan, who was recently appointed Syariah High Court judge in Selangor. Pic taken from The Star Online.

KUALA LUMPUR: The appointment of women as High Court judges in the Selangor Syariah Court should pave the way for other states to do the same.

This was the view of the experts at a “Seminar on Women as Judges and Leaders” on Tuesday, organised by the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) and the Selangor Syariah Judiciary Department (Jakess) here.

IAIS founder and chief executive officer Prof Dr Hashim Kamali said the role of women was not just mentioned in the Quran and hadith (sayings of Prophet Muhammad) but also in the customs and practices of society at different times.

“Right now we have in the Muslim world, many different types of customs and practices; tribalist culture is still very strong in many parts of the world and in those parts it’s not just religion that determines the way women play their role in society and how they are treated.

“Our history is also dominated by male superiority. It has been a reality and we are still with it.

“But the role of women as evidenced in the Quran and Sunnah (practices of Prophet Muhammad) is a vision that is well distinguished, articulated in many passages in the Quran and which has found some support also in the Sunnah.”

Dr Hashim said the basic question was that of equality.

“Whether women can be judges and leaders is subsidiary,” he said, going on to cite seven passages from the Quran on the vision of equality.

Quoting a hadith, Dr Hashim said: “people are equal to one other like the teeth of a comb”.

He added that the criteria for appointment as a judge should be knowledge of the Syariah and the ability to apply it.

Noor Huda Roslan, who was recently appointed Syariah High Court judge in Selangor, and Dr Hashim showed the classical opinions under Hukum Syara of whether women can be syariah judges, which ranged from being forbidden outright to being allowed to be one with no limitations.

She noted that the contemporary opinion of renowned Eygptian scholar Sheikh Dr Yusuf al-Qardawi was that  women could be appointed except for hudud and qisas cases (crimes against God and man) because there was no dalil (proof/inference) which clearly stated she could not be one.

She added that this opinion was held by the National Fatwa Council in 2006 in Malaysia and the Selangor Fatwa Committee soon after.

Currently, Noor Huda said there are 400 Syariah officers under the Common Use Scheme for Sharia Officers in Malaysia, of whom 271 are male and 129 are female.

Until 2010, the position of judge in the Syariah courts, even the subordinate courts, was only open to men, she added.

“But today there are also women judges in courts in Malacca, Federal Territory, Perlis, Pahang, Sabah, Kedah, Kelantan and Selangor.

“There are no women in Penang, Johor, Perak, Negri Sembilan, Terengganu and Sarawak. I hope that will change,” she added.

Prof Datin Dr Raihanah Abdullah, dean of the Humanitarian Research Cluster at Universiti Malaya, noted that Muslim women with an Islamic education background at the tertiary level had limited opportunities to hold positions in the administrative and managerial posts in various Islamic organisations.

In the past, she said it was difficult to find women in any institution with the word “Islamic” or “Syariah” in the name.

“Among them are Ikim (Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia) , Jakim (Islamic Development Department Malaysia), Yadim (Islamiah Dakwah Foundation Malaysia), Yapeim (Islamic Economic Development Foundation of Malaysia), JKSM (Syariah Judiciary Department), Syariah Courts and the Islamic Religious Council.”

Dr Raihanah said that out of the 19 sections in Jakim in 2014 only four directors were women.

While the top posts in the 16 Islamic agencies were dominated by males, she said change was slowly coming – the Government recently appointed a woman as the director-general of Ikim.

“I am looking forward to a woman as a Chief Judge in any of the states.

“It is often asked of female candidates – are they qualified? Why is this never asked of male candidates?”

Pointing out there were 150 women judges in Afghanistan today, she noted that out of the 35 ministers in the Malaysian Cabinet, only three were women.

 

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