NEWS

The election of muftis and what to do about tithed assets

Irrespective of the way muftis are appointed, do you believe that in a modern European state there is room for Sharia (Islamic) law, that is for the mufti to rule on family law issues? Shouldn’t every Muslim be free to have recourse to whatever court he wants, whether the religious or civil courts, on these issues? As you know, the mufti in Thrace has a double duty: he rules on issues of family and inheritance law in accordance with the Sharia, but he is also the religious leader of the Muslim minority. Greece is the only country in the European Union that has retained a religious court within its borders and that is a sign of respect and tolerance. However, because of the mufti’s legal jurisdiction, as emphasized in Council of State rulings, the question of the mufti being elected by the minority itself remains unsolved. I have suggested that the two institutions (mufti and judge) be separated. The mufti should be elected by the minority itself and the judge appointed by the state. However, the institution of the religious court should be modernized in accordance with the existing laws and Muslims should have the right to choose whether they want to have recourse to the religious or civil courts in resolving differences. Particularly with regard to Muslim women’s rights, Sharia does not always provide the best solution. In accordance with the existing situation, the enactment of solely a religious wedding ceremony is purely the prerogative of the religious court, and comes under the provisions of Sharia law. That is unacceptable. People should be able to choose to have recourse to civil courts.. What is your position on the vakuf (tithed estates)? Today these assets are administered by committees appointed by the Greek state, but the minority has demanded the right to elect the committees themselves. Is any compromise possible? The vakuf are purely Islamic foundations set up for philanthropic purposes, for the maintenance of mosques, to pay the wages of imams and preachers as well as to maintain minority schools. The purpose of founding a vakuf is to provide revenue for preserving the religion and providing social services for Muslims. The choice of the people who are to administer and handle these assets, always in accordance with the purpose of the devisor, must be based on the will of the faithful through the election of a committee to monitor the administration (of course always answerable to the relevant services; taxation bureau, regional or prefectural authorities). Up until the time of the dictatorship, the members of the board of the vakuf were elected by the faithful themselves. This procedure was halted, however, and in 1981 a state law was passed providing for elections. Although this law is still in force, it is not observed. Elections have never been held. Both the main opposition leader and the prime minister have often mentioned solving this problem. Bearing in mind sacred Islamic law, Greek law and the will of the minority faithful, I have prepared a draft law aimed at resolving the problem. But there is also the problem of the vakuf property assets that are mortgaged. A way must be found to make the best use of them.