The government of Greece just took a huge “historic step” to free the Muslim minority within their country from the tyranny of Islamic Shariah courts whose jurisdiction they have been forced to live under for nearly a century.
According to The Associated Press, a majority coalition of political parties in the Greek Parliament overwhelming passed a law which overturned an old law that compelled Muslim residents to settle civil disputes in Shariah courts.
Greek courts will now hold priority in those cases, though Muslims can still opt to have their disputes settled by state-appointed Muslim clerics, if they so desire.
The old law was put in place in the aftermath of World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, which saw an influx of Muslims gain Greek citizenship. It is estimated that more than 100,000 Muslims live in Greece, mostly in the region of Thrace, which borders Turkey.
Though unpopular, the law requiring Muslim cases to be adjudicated in Shariah courts hadn’t been challenged out of fear it would deepen existing disputes between Greece and Turkey.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras praised the move by parliament, saying it respects the “special characteristics” of the nation’s Muslim minority while at the same time addressing past grievances and injustices against those “who were excluded from the legal guarantees and freedoms that all Greek citizens must enjoy.”
The new law was also praised by the Greek minister of education and religious affairs, Constantine Gavroglou, who said the law stemmed “from policies that were hostile toward the minority and sought to create second-class citizens.”
“This is not just a technical adjustment, it’s a very important day for parliament,” continued Gavroglou, “because of the broad support that is key when addressing issues of democracy and people’s rights.”
The new law did receive broad support, except from the right-leaning Golden Dawn party, who rejected the bill not because they disagreed with it, but because they felt it didn’t go far enough in limiting the power of the influential Islamic courts.
Do you think Greece should take the next step and totally abolish Islamic Shariah courts in their nation?
According to The U.K. Guardian, the Muslim minority in Greece shared that sentiment as well, praising the law for the good that it will do while also noting that more could have been done to limit the power of the Shariah courts.
“There is no doubt this is an important step and a positive one that will open the way to further freedom for our community,” stated parliament member Mustafa Mustafa. “But I would have liked it to be fully abolished. No other EU country has sharia.”
Mustafa is not alone in that position either, as attorney and law professor Yannis Ktistakis stated, “That is why it is a half measure. We have a situation where laws drafted in 1914 still apply … this new legislation doesn’t go far enough as it still gives muftis (Muslim legal experts) the right to intervene.”
The Islamic courts would typically oversee civil matters among Muslims like child custody and divorce hearings, as well as inheritance matters. In fact, it was a legal dispute over an inheritance involving a 67-year-old Muslim widow and her late husband’s sisters that served as a catalyst for the new law.
Hatijah Molla Salli, who is represented by Ktistakis, took her case all the way to the European court of human rights after the Greek supreme court deferred to the Shariah courts and overturned a lower court’s ruling in favor of Salli. It is expected that the European court will side with Salli in the dispute.
“The government knows that the ruling will not be in its favor and is only acting to prevent condemnation by the court,” Ktistakis stated. “This is a political move. The laws governing sharia should be abolished altogether.”
On that, we most certainly agree. While we commend the Greek government for taking this bold step to provide equal legal protections to all of its citizens, we nevertheless must ask why it took nearly 100 years for them to finally do so, and suggest they take the next step of total abolishment as suggested by the lawyer and parliament member.
H/T Jihad Watch
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