Category Archives: Islam

Muslim Law: The Need For Reform

‘There is nothing in the Quran which says that a man should marry a young girl … It is not in the best interests of a girl to be married off early. Early marriage robs a girl of her childhood,’ argues Dr Reeza Hameed.

The All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU) is opposed to making any changes to the existing Muslim family law. Mufti Rizwi, who is a member of the Saleem Marsoof Committee appointed to look into reforms to the Muslims Marriages and Divorces Act (MMDA) of 1951, has made the oracular pronouncement that the law is ‘perfect in its present state’ and required no reform. Mufti Rizwi also presides over the ACJU. Regrettably, the views expressed by the Mufti and his outfit are anachronistic and obscurantist. Matters relating to Islam and Muslim law ought not to be the sole concern of the ulema. In this comment I have touched upon some issues in the hope that it will contribute to the debate on the need for reform. In Muslim law marriage is not a sacrament but a civil contract. Neither religious ritual nor having it done in a mosque is essential to confer validity to a marriage. A Muslim marriage is contract like any other in Islamic law. Parties to a marriage should have legal capacity to enter into the contract.

There has to be an offer and an acceptance of that offer with the intention of establishing a marital relationship. There must be consideration given to the wife known as mehr. All the schools of law recognise that a person has freedom of choice to enter into a marriage and that he or she cannot be forced into one. The age at which a young Muslim acquires legal capacity to marry has been a contentious issue. The traditionalist view adumbrated by classical jurists is that a person acquires the legal capacity to marry on attaining puberty. In the Hedaya, the manual on Hanafi law, the earliest age at which puberty is attained by a girl is 9 and by a boy at 12. A similar view is adopted by the Shafi School, which is followed by a majority of Sri Lankan Muslims. The presumption of Muslim law as applied in India and Sri Lanka is that a person attained puberty at 15. Continue reading

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Filed under Courts, Discussion, Dr Reeza Hameed, Human Rights, Islam, Pakistan, Politics, Sri Lanka, The Middle East, Women

Pakistan’s Place in Iran’s Strategic Thinking: A Talk by Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister

‘The concept of the nation state is in turmoil’ … ‘Iran and Pakistan can reshape the region’ – Watch Video

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the events that unfolded in its aftermath transformed Iran from a “rogue” state once part of the so-called “Axis of Evil” to one which is now vastly influential in the volatile affairs of the region. The ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq and last summer’s JCPOA have meant that the once menacing image of frowning mullahs burning American, British and Israeli flags has now been replaced by Mohammad Javad Zarif’s famous “smile diplomacy”. The upshot is that the Iranians are no longer considered to be the pariahs of the international community that they once used to be. These days everyone is looking for economic opportunities in Iran and western businesses and banks are keen to interact with its vast markets which were disconnected from the mainstream world economy because of sanctions subsequent to the 1979 Revolution.

During his talk entitled Pakistan’s Place in Iran’s Strategic Thinking at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on 12 August 2016, Iran’s deputy foreign minister Dr Seyed Mohammad Kazem Sajjadpour said that Iran has more than a dozen neighbours but he remained unequivocal in his stance that Pakistan was a special country in the eyes of the Iranians. Dr Sajjadpour argued that Pakistan and Iran’s destinies are inextricably linked and that the two large neighbouring countries need to work together to combat security problems in order to neutralise the threat posed by terrorism. Detailed media coverage of our event with the Iranian dignitary can found below (see our earlier posts on Iran here and here and see further coverage here. Continue reading

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Filed under CPEC, Cyber Security, Discussion, Europe, Iran, ISIS, Islam, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Palestine, PIIA, Politics, Sanctions, Syria, The Middle East

Dr Gunter Mulack: Crisis in the Middle East: A German Perspective

‘The Arab elite responsible is for Middle East crises’ – Watch Video.

As seen on this blog, the German chancellor Angela Merkel has become rather controversial because of her “open door” or Willkommenskultur policy in relation to refugees from the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia. Last year, Merkel was involved in a tug of war involved in a tug of war with her uneasy ally Horst Seehofer (premier of Bavaria) and even members of her trusted cabinet openly challenged her over her refugee policy. The chancellery ultimately bowed down to pressure from finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble and interior minister Thomas de Maizière – Schäuble accused her of being a “careless” skier who has caused an “avalanche” which needs to be contained. Equally, Mrs Merkel has been under pressure from the extremist right-wing populist eurosceptic Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany) party and its charismatic co-leader Frauke Petry; a 40-year old chemist/businesswoman with four children turned politician who very radically argues that the German authorities must “use firearms if necessary” to “prevent illegal border crossings”.

Given that a million people have penetrated Europe’s border in just a year, Petry argues that the “police must stop refugees entering German soil.” Against that background, German diplomat and scholar Dr Gunter Mulack spoke at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) and shared his views on the crisis in the Middle East from a German Perspective. Continue reading

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Filed under Al Qaeda, China, CPEC, Discussion, Europe, Germany, Human Rights, Immigration, ISIS, Islam, Karachi, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Russia, Syria, The Arab Spring, The Middle East

Ahmed Rashid: Continuing Search for Stability: Pakistan and Afghanistan

The West has endorsed two rigged elections in Afghanistan and the military situation has never been worse than it is now. Using proxies encourages neighbours to follow suit. Watch Introduction, Main Lecture and Q&A.

Acclaimed author and journalist Mr Ahmed Rashid spoke at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on Friday, 11 March 2016. His lecture aimed to make sense of the spiralling trend towards violence and militancy in the region. He argued that Pakistan’s interference in Afghan matters using proxies has created widespread problems and cataclysmic failure. For him, claims that the Taliban are being beaten are wholly incorrect and amount to a “fallacy”. Rashid is the author of numerous books including the widely read publication Taliban. His other books include Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia and Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Disaster in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia and Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

His talk looked at the emerging trends in jihad and insurrection in the region and interlinked the Afghan situation to the wider issues of jihad as seen by the governments of countries such as Iran, Russia and the Central Asian Republics all of which were involved in backing different Taliban factions in Afghanistan. He also questioned the efficacy of Pakistan’s Zarb-e-Azb operation. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Discussion, Events, Iran, Islam, Pakistan, PIIA, Politics, Russia, United States

Regional Challenges and Opportunities for South Asia in the Decades Ahead

‘I look at the region not as Pakistan alone. I look at wider connectivity over the next two decades’ … ‘There’s no military solution to security issues’ …

Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army and the Wars Within is thought to be an important book. William Dalrymple called it the most “authoritative analysis” of Pakistan’s military and intelligence services. General Jehangir Karamat, the former Chief of Army Staff (1996-98), called it an “insightful study” and “the centre of gravity in Pakistan”. It has been called the “key” to understanding the complex framework underpinning power structures in Pakistan. “The most well researched and lucidly written book of its kind,” is how Ahmed Rashid described it. In a talk entitled Regional Challenges and Opportunities for South Asia in the Decades Ahead at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA), its author Shuja Nawaz stressed that terrorism would only be reduced if education levels remain high. He is a Distinguished Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Centre.

The Atlantic Council promotes constructive leadership and engagement in international affairs based on the Atlantic Community’s central role in meeting global challenges. The Council provides an essential forum for navigating the dramatic economic and political changes defining the twenty-first century by informing and galvanizing its uniquely influential network of global leaders. Because of historic rivalry, the degree of misunderstanding and mistrust between Pakistan and India is constantly skyrocketing. Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Events, India, Islam, Pakistan, Peace building, PIIA, United States

Holy Cow! Is It Cricket?

I have never attended cricket matches and only once took a bat and a cricket ball in my hands and that was under compulsion from the head master

Markandey Katju, quondam Justice of the Supreme Court of India, is a man who does not mince his words. A maverick, he has a penchant for courting controversies. Not long ago, he dubbed Mahatma Gandhi “a British agent” (he also called Subhash Chandra Bose “a Japanese agent”). Katju accused Gandhi of serving the imperial agenda and declared as a myth the widely held claim that Gandhi won India her freedom. For about twenty years Gandhi practised law in South Africa and in 1915 went back to India, where he became involved in the country’s independence movement. In India, he set out to build a mass political movement by injecting religion into politics, thereby exploiting the deeply held religious sentiments of the people. In almost every meeting he participated, he propagated Hindu religious ideas.

The Congress was converted to a party of the Hindu masses, leading to the Muslims and the Congress becoming polarised. Citing the eminent jurist Seervai in support, Katju has argued that Gandhi’s method of appealing to Hindu ideas inevitably led to partition. Had Katju been in Solon’s Athens, where speaking ill of the dead was prohibited by Solon’s law, his remarks would have got him into hot waters. In twenty first century India, Katju’s remarks touched a raw nerve of the law makers because he had spoken ill of the Father Continue reading

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Filed under BJP, Congress, Discussion, Dr Reeza Hameed, India, Islam, Pakistan, Politics

A Talk by Ambassador Brigitta Blaha on Austria’s Foreign Policy

‘We have no problem with Islam but we don’t want any disruption or anything that goes against our cultural values’ – Watch Video

A longstanding diplomat who joined the Austrian Foreign Service in 1978, Dr Brigitta Blaha gave a talk on Austria’s Foreign Policy at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on 9 February 2016. Prior to her present posting in Pakistan as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Austria, Dr Blaha had served her country in Washington, Bangkok, Rome, Tokyo, Hong Kong and New York. An astute diplomat, she speaks German, English, French, Italian and Spanish and has extensive experience in dealing with integration and foreign affairs, Austrians abroad, citizenship matters, elections, social and health and Labour issues. The event was chaired by Dr Masuma Hasan, Chairman, PIIA, former Cabinet Secretary to the Government of Pakistan and former Ambassador of Pakistan to Austria, the UN and International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

Certainly, in the existing political milieu, the interest in EU matters is amplified because of the continuing exchange between David Cameron and EU leaders. As we know so well, these days nothing in European politics is as important as the UK’s exit, or “Brexit”, from the EU. With a record one million people arriving irregularly in the EU last year, swelling numbers of refugees are giving rise to extreme Xenophobia in Europe and Austria is no exception. Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Europe, Events, Human Rights, Immigration, Islam, Pakistan Horizon, Politics