January 23, 2015
THE Council of Islamic Ideology has yet again illustrated the utter irrelevance of its existence and its capacity for dredging up matters that would do well without its input.
Following a meeting of the Council, its chairman Maulana Sheerani said that the body will recommend to the government that three pronouncements of divorce at a time should be criminalised — even though they would nevertheless have the effect of dissolving the marriage — because it is against the spirit of the religion.
The Muslim Family Law Ordinance, 1961 has already laid down the procedure for divorce and the CII’s statement only sows confusion in a social milieu where tradition and custom, especially in matters of marriage and divorce, often take precedence over legislation.
Moreover, not for the first time, the body has rejected as un-Islamic the clauses of the Muslim Marriage Act, 1939 that allow women to seek divorce on the grounds of their husbands’ remarriage without their consent. During its deliberations, the CII also arrived at the conclusion that only women above the age of 40 could become judges and that too on condition that they observe Purdah.
The CII, particularly in recent years, has been on a consistently regressive march, its statements arousing derision and outrage in equal measure. And as is the wont of those who use religion as a crutch to pontificate on social issues, the fixation of its members has largely been on women’s rights — more specifically, on how to circumscribe them further.
It has shown itself resistant to logic and technological advances, not to mention judicial precedent. In 2013, for example, it said that DNA evidence — used the world over to definitively affix criminal responsibility — should be treated only as supplementary evidence in cases of rape, contrary to several judgments by Pakistan’s superior courts in which DNA results have been admitted as primary evidence.
Instead, the CII urged reliance upon the testimony of four eyewitnesses as primary evidence, thus conflating rape with adultery, for which such evidence is required under the law.
Then last year, it said that laws barring child marriage were ‘un-Islamic’, notwithstanding the evidence of the terrible physical and psychological toll this inhuman custom exacts upon minors, particularly girls.
One may well question the wisdom of retaining the CII on the statute books at all, that too with a parliament bound by the constitutional stipulation that no law will be passed contrary to the Quran and Sunnah.
The judiciary and media also play a watchdog role over the content of proposed and existing legislation.
Although the recommendations of the Council are not binding upon parliament, it serves as a platform for unelected representatives of right-wing persuasion to influence public debate and create roadblocks in the way of progressive legislation. The public should no longer have to suffer the ponderings of this august body.