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Joint letter by cross-section of Muslim communities in Sri Lanka: “Muslim MPs’ MMDA proposals must be rejected”

Image: Muslim MPs are refusing to legally address child marriage.

On 4th August 2023, close to 160 Sri Lankan Muslims, academics, professionals, community leaders, business personalities, media personalities and youth from across the country representing a wide cross-section of Muslim communities made known their displeasure for the MMDA proposals by the Muslim Members of Parliament.

They say that MPs’ recommendations come at the cost of the most vulnerable, especially the Muslim women and girls, who have made sacrifices to bring to the fore deep injustices, discrimination and harm caused under the current MMDA. The signatories of the statement note that the MPs’ positions do not represent the core principles of Islam of justice, kindness, compassion and peace which guide Islamic law.

The statement by the signatories urges the Muslim MPs to show genuine leadership to the community by constructively engaging with the reforms moving forward. Further, the Minister of Justice and the Government of Sri Lanka are urged to reject the MPs proposals and progress on much needed reforms to the MMDA.

The letter:

ISLAM STANDS FOR JUSTICE: MUSLIM MP’S MMDA PROPOSALS MUST BE REJECTED

We, as Muslims of Sri Lanka, condemn the positions forwarded by the Muslim Members of Parliament (MPs), in a letter dated 8th June 2023 to the Minister of Justice, completely undermining reforms to the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) of Sri Lanka.

We are extremely disappointed in the backward positions taken by the Muslim MP signatories in this document. These positions go against the principles of kindness, compassion and peace encapsulated in the Shari’ah. They also go against building a Sri Lankan Muslim identity that upholds the Sri Lankan Constitution and represents the enlightened thinking of Islam across the Muslim world.

1. Refusing to legally address child marriage
2. Agreeing to women’s signature on marriage documents and thereafter denying validity to the signature by making it mandatory that a male guardian sign as well
3. Refusing to genuinely address harmful effects of polygamy
4. Excluding Muslim women from the office of Marriage Registrars and Quazis
5. Denying equal procedure in divorce for women
6. Denying Mat’aa (alimony), matrimonial property rights in divorce
7. Enforcing divisions and hierarchies amongst Muslim in Sri Lanka based on Sect and Madhab and failing to recognize that Islam is a religion of equals
8. Insist on retaining the Quazi system and Quazi appointments within the full control of the Muslim political and religious elite and reject legal recognition of clear appointment criteria and procedures.

We recognize that the Muslim communities of Sri Lanka, especially the Muslim women and Muslim women victims of the MMDA, have worked long and hard to bring to light the deep injustices, discrimination and harm caused under the current MMDA. The lack of reform all these decades has affected generations of Muslim communities.

We are appalled that Muslim Members of Parliament having previously endorsed progressive decisions on MMDA reform have by this document completely reversed their positions. This conduct dismisses the plight of the victims who continue to share at great risk their pain and mistreatment under the law. These proposals are a reflection of exclusively male led community groups that have repeatedly undermined MMDA reform. These proposals only signal political expediency and not long term development of the
Muslim society in Sri Lanka.

We denounce the attempt by Muslim MPs to thwart decades of law-making attempts to bring much needed reforms. The recommendations sideline considered reports to the Ministry of Justice which had Muslim women also representing their views.

We urge the Muslim Members of Parliament who signed this document to reconsider this decision, withdraw their signatures and constructively engage with the reforms moving forward. We also urge these Muslim MPs to provide leadership in publicly communicating that reforms are for the benefit of our community, particularly the most vulnerable. The Muslim community deserves genuine leadership, solutions and redress, we urge that you act accordingly.

We urge the Minister of Justice and the Government of Sri Lanka to reject the MPs’ proposals and move forward on much needed reforms to the MMDA.

We look forward to urgent positive steps from the representatives of the people on MMDA reforms.

Endorsed by

1. Deshabandu Jezima Ismail, Co-founder Muslim Women’s Research and Action Forum
(MWRAF)
2. Professor A. H. Sheriffdeen, Emeritus Professor of Surgery, University of Colombo
3. Professor M.A. Nuhman
4. Professor Naazima Kamardeen, Prof of Commercial Law, University of Colombo
5. Justice Saleem Marsoof, PC.
6. Dr. Ameer Ali
7. Dr. Ameer Zainudeen, Consultant Chemical Engineer (retd), Former Member of
Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL)
8. Dr Aysha Ziauddin, MRCOG MRCGP Family Medicine Physician
9. Dr. Farah Mihlar
10. Dr. Maleeha Ifthy
11. Dr. Rauff Zain (Ph.D) Director, Centre for Development Studies
12. Dr. Zulfiqar Ismail, College teacher/ Instructor/ Director of Muslim Women’s
Research and Action Forum (MWRAF)
13. M.Y. Minnathul Suheera, Senior Lecturer at South Eastern University
14. Ferial Ashraff, Former Cabinet Minister
15. Razik Zarook, President’s Counsel
16. Razmara Abdeen, Senior Attorney-at-Law
17. Abdur Rahuman, Founder Chairman of BCAS Campus
18. Ashroff Omar, Brandix
19. Hanif Yusoof, Entrepreneur
20. Murtaza Esufally, Co- Founder Learn4LifeLanka
21. Nawaz Rajabdeen, President of Confederation of Micro, Small & Medium Industries
22. A. C. Fathima Husna, Attorney-at-Law
23. Aboosalih Uwais, Attorney-at-Law
24. Amra Ismail, Attorney at Law
25. Azad Mustaffa, Attorney-at-Law
26. Fathima Majitha, Attorney-at-Law and Writer
27. Fazla Fazuldeen, Attorney-at-Law
28. Fazmin Ahmed, Attorney at Law
29. Haniffa Ramsiya, Attorney at Law
30. Hasanah Cegu Isadeen, Attorney-at-Law
31. Mahbooba Rifaideen, Attorney-at-Law
32. Nabeela Raji, Attorney-at-law
33. Nadhiha Abbas, Attorney-at-Law
34. Rehab Mahamoor, Attorney-at-Law
35. Roshan Aboosally Mohamed, Attorney-at-Law
36. S.F.M Zavahir, Attorney at Law, Notary Public and Justice of Peace
37. Sabra Zahid, Attorney at Law
38. Sadiyya Thasi Hassan, Attorney-at-law
39. Sainul Abdeen Kifsiya Banu, Attorney-at-Law
40. Sarah Nada, Attorney-at-Law

41. Shammarah Ismath, Attorney-at-Law
42. Thahira Cader, Attorney-at-Law
43. Usman Anwer, Attorney at Law
44. Zulaiha Sulaiman, Attorney-at-Law
45. Faizun Zackariya, Co Founder, Muslim Women’s Research and Action Forum
(MWRAF)
46. Anberiya Haniffa, Development Consultant, Director of MWRAF
47. Shafinaz Hassendeen, United Nations (retired), Director of MWRAF
48. Aneesa Firthous, President of Islamic Women’s Association for Research and
Education (IWARE), Batticaloa
49. Hyshyama Hamin, Co-Founder of Muslim Personal Law Reform Action Group
(MPLRAG)
50. K.Nihal Ahamed, Director of Human Elevation Organization(HEO), Ampara
51. Asiff Hussein, Journalist and Vice President, Outreach Centre for Islamic Studies
52. A. Mohamed Ashfaque, Filmmaker and Researcher
53. Aarah Ahamed, Marketing Coordinator
54. Abdul Azeez Mohamed Nizardeen, Freelance Journalist
55. Adel Hashim, CEO, iCON Insurance Brokers (Pvt) Ltd
56. Adheeb Anwar
57. Adnan Issadeen, Security engineer
58. Amal Mohamed, Teacher
59. Amana Zahid, Law student
60. Amani Najumudeen, Student
61. Amani Raji, Legal Intern
62. Ameena Hussein, Writer
63. Ameena Ziauddin, Deputy Managing Director of Norfolk Foods
64. Ammaarah Nilafdeen, Independent Researcher
65. Amna Rifky, Product manager
66. Amra Bhutto, Student
67. Ann Jabbar, MWRAF
68. Aqilah Nikhat Nleem, Early Childhood Educator
69. Arkam Zahid, Finance professional
70. Asma Edris
71. Azra Jafferjee, Economist
72. Cegu Abdul Cadir, Accountant
73. Dinah Markar, Retired Teacher
74. Fairooza Gaffar, Educator
75. Farahana Zain, Educator
76. Fareena Salih, Student Support Coordinator, Oxford Brookes University
77. Fathima Rasmina Ihram, Vernathee Women’s Movement
78. Fawzul Himaya Hareed, Communications Specialist
79. Florine Marzook, Independent Researcher, Activist
80. Hafsah Muheed, Gender Equality Advocate
81. Hajra Hussein, Primary school teacher
82. Haseef Kalam, Implementation Consultant

83. Hazeera Zavahir, Principal Kandy International School/ Retired Principal Peradeniya
Training College
84. Hilmy Ahamed, Young Asia Television
85. Honeida Packeer
86. Imaan Mohamed, Communications and Engagement Associate
87. Iman Saleem, Writer
88. Issath Rehana Mohamed Azeem (Anar)
89. Jariya Sameem, Vernathee Women’s Movement.
90. Jemhuthnisha Masooth, Former member of Urban Council
91. K. M. M. Nawaz, Civil society activist and Former Director of Secretariat for Muslims
92. Kamel Asmy Mohamed Shabeer, Journalist
93. Khadeeja Firaz, Consultant
94. Leila Udayar, MWRAF
95. M. A. C. M. Jawahir, Director, Harmony Centre, Kattankudy
96. M. H . Shara, Operational Manager at Xmerce
97. M. I. S. Jahitha, President, “Menik” Women Society, Kattakudy
98. M. I. Uthma Lebbe
99. M.A. Zafar Ahmed, Aeronautical Information Management Officer
100. M.H. Jiffriya, Teacher
101. M.S. Sammila, Vernathee Women’s Movement
102. Mariam Azwer, Journalist & Researcher
103. Maryam Fahim, HR Professional
104. Mazeena Ilyas, MWRAF
105. Megara Tegal, Researcher
106. Mizly Zahir-Rifkey, Business Intelligence Analyst
107. Mufliha Mahroof, Legal Consultant
108. Muheed ur Rahman, Journalist
109. Munza Mushtaq, Journalist
110. Muqaddasa Wahid, Journalist
111. Mutiara Tegal, Chartered Architect
112. Nabeela Iqbal, Activist
113. Nadia Ismail, Activist
114. Nadha Hassen, PhD candidate
115. Najath K. L., YouTuber
116. Naleem Salih, Retired University Lecturer
117. Nasreen Abdul, Accountant
118. Nazar Shaffee, Group CFO/Director
119. Nihara Lafir, IWARE
120. Niroza Hussein, Accountant
121. Nisha Najumudeen, Chartered professional
122. Nuzrath Hidaya, Accountant
123. Omar Rajarathnam, Media Development Consultant
124. Parveen Muhammad, Communication Officer
125. Ramzeen Azeez, Senior Assistant Airport Manager (retd)
126. Raviya Careem

127. Razfi Halith, Analyst
128. Rifa Muhammed Musthafa, Secretary of ADLR
129. Rikaza Hassan, Centre for Journalism & Education
130. Romola Rassool, Director, Post Graduate Institute of English
131. S. H. Imthiyas
132. S. Thasthageer, Rtd. Food Drugs Inspector
133. S. Zarina Nawaz, Befriender at Sri Lanka Sumithrayo
134. Sahul Hameed Firthous, Teacher
135. Sakina Mansoorally, Student
136. Samiha Muhsin, Administrative Coordinator
137. Shahdia Jamaldeen, Chartered Architect
138. Shamzy Jauffer, Senior Analyst at Quality Assurance
139. Shanaz Mohideen, Accountant
140. Silma Ahamed, Young Asia Television
141. Sheroon Shouketh, Assistant Manager, Social Capital, Corporate Human Resources,
Hela Apparel Holdings
142. Shifa Najumudeen, Legal Advisor
143. Shifana Niyas, PhD student, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
144. Sithy Sahabdeen
145. Sithy Zareena Razeen, Civil Engineer
146. Suhaina Mohideen, Software Engineer
147. Sumaiya Frahath, Psychology and Counseling Intern
148. Sumaiya Pallak, Activist and Researcher
149. Thaimi Mohamed, Sr. Project Manager
150. Thasneema Dahlan
151. Tinaz Amit, Public Relations Manager/ Writer
152. U.L. Hafeela, MWRAF
153. Ummul Zahid
154. Y. Rinoza, Women’s Rights Activist
155. Zahrah Rizwan, Feminist Researcher
156. Zainab Ibrahim, Researcher
157. Zaneera Rahim, Airline industry professional
158. Zeenath Hidaya, IT professional / Education Consultant

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