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Greece makes sharia law optional for Muslim minority

Muslim litigants can opt for a Greek court to resolve family disputes [AFP]

Date of publication: 10 January, 2018

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The Greek parliament on Tuesday made the practice of Islamic sharia law in family disputes optional for the country's Muslim minority, changing a century-old legacy.

Muslims in Greece will have the option to practice of Islamic sharia law in family disputes, the Greek parliament ruled on Tuesday, changing a century-old legacy.

Greece's leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras immediately called the vote a "historic step" as it "extended equality before the law to all Greeks".

The legislation will allow Muslim litigants to opt for a Greek court to resolve family disputes rather than appealing to Islamic jurists known as muftis.

For family law matters, Greek Muslims generally seek recourse to muftis for things like divorce, child custody and inheritance. Rights groups say it is a system that frequently discriminates against women.

The issue has its origins in the period after World War I, and treaties between Greece and Turkey that followed the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

The 1920 Treaty of Sevres and the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne stipulated that Islamic customs and Islamic religious law would apply to thousands of Muslims who suddenly became Greek citizens.

Greece's roughly 110,000-strong Muslim minority mainly lives in Thrace, a poor, rural region in the northeast bordering Turkey.

In August, the Greek parliament approved plans to build a mosque and allocated 946,000 euros ($1.1m) of public money to build on land owned by the Greek navy.

"If we wish to avoid the problems facing France and Belgium, we should not make the mistakes that they are now trying to deal with," Nikos Filis, then minister of education, research and religious affairs, stated in August.

"The existence of makeshift mosques is a shame for the country as well as for the Muslim community and a danger to national security," he added.

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