KUALA LUMPUR: The Women and Family Development Ministry and the Perlis Government have agreed on the urgent need to standardise Islamic family laws following the controversy over the ruling on polygamy in the state.
Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said she would bring the matter up to the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Islamic Family Law, headed by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim, and to the Cabinet.
“The lesson to be learnt from this controversy is the need for uniformity in the law,” she told a press conference after a cheque presentation to 49 women’s organisations at her ministry here, yesterday.
Shahidan, who was invited to the function and who was accompanied by Perlis Mufti Datuk Mat Jahya Husein and two other members of the state religious council, also urged Shahrizat to raise the matter with the Council of Rulers.
“We must include the Rulers because religious matters come under their jurisdiction.
“If the Rulers decide, all the states will accept the decision,” he said.
Shahidan reiterated that Perlis was “not encouraging polygamy but was trying to accommodate and facilitate” those who already have the intention of taking another wife.
He said these laws had been in existence in Perlis since the 1980s.
The National Council of Women’s Organisation (NCWO) submitted a memorandum to Shahrizat and Shahidan, calling for constitutional amendments for a single syariah law for Muslim families.
“Malaysia is the only country with multiple versions of Islamic laws, under 14 separate state or federal territory jurisdictions,” NCWO president Prof Dr Sharifah Hapsah Syed Hasan Shahabudin said.
Sisters in Islam (SIS) legal officer Nora Murat said SIS supported standardisation of the law but stressed the need for women’s voices to be heard in the decision-making process.
In Kangar, IAN MCINTYRE reports that Perlis Islamic religious authorities recorded a 100% increase last year in applications by Muslim men to practise polygamy, compared with the previous year.
State Syariah Court Judge Othman Ismail said the authorities received 99 applications from January to November, against 54 for the whole of 2001.
There were only 19 such applications in 2000, he added.
“We have no records of those who did not solemnise their marriages across the border with the authorities. The figure could be higher,” he added.
Othman said only two applications for polygamy were received by the kadi's office here for the first six days of this year.
“We also received 10 enquiries on the matter from couples, mostly from Kuala Lumpur and Johor,” he said.
In Kuantan, Pahang Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob said the state had no official policy on polygamy and the matter had been a cause for concern in the state.
“Anyone who wishes to marry more than one (wife) can do so,” he said.
Related Story:Perlis mufti: Court will decide