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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Cleric warns against family law

"If this law passes, it will not be possible to revoke it without blood... And blood may be of no use, as the Iraq example shows," Sheikh Issa Kassem told worshippers in the village of Daraz, west of Manama. "We do not want the country to shed one drop of blood, especially among its own people," said Kassem, whose community forms a majority in Bahrain.

The sheikh said a proposed law that would regulate family and other personal status matters in Bahrain should be drafted by clergymen and "approved by the marjaiya [Shiite religious authorities] in [the Iraqi holy city of] Najaf." Kassem, who heads the Shiite Muslim Council of Ulema, charged that the proposed family law was meant to "please the United States." He pointed to remarks by US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs Scott Carpenter published in the local press in which he said that Washington supports giving women a bigger role and that Bahrain would host a conference on family laws in the Middle East and North Africa early next year.

A source close to the Higher Women's Council, which is chaired by King Hamad's wife, said a draft family law had been prepared by Sunnite and Shiite religious leaders and it would be submitted to the government for approval before it is put to Parliament. The source did not give details about the proposed legislation, or say if it provides for family and other personal status matters to be settled by Islamic or civil courts. Sunni and Shiite courts currently rule on family and other personal status cases. Bahraini women activists have long been demanding that a law regulating personal status issues be enacted and that related disputes be referred to civil courts. King Hamad was pictured in local dailies receiving prominent women who came to greet him on the occasion of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr -- a departure from previous practice when only photographs of men greeting the monarch were published. (King) Hamad, whose country is a close US ally and hosts the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, has introduced a series of political reforms since coming to office in 1999, including the revival in 2002 of an elected Parliament which had been scrapped in 1975.
Source: Lebanon Monday Morning

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