Breaking the glass ceiling in the Shari’a courts

Female qadis serve in the Shari’a courts in Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt and Jordan, but not in Iran, said Shaked – and up till now, not in Israel.

May 15, 2017 19:36
3 minute read.
SLAMIC JURIST Hana Mansour-Khatib poses Sunday in her office in Tamra, in the eastern Galilee.

Islamic jurist Hana Mansour-Khatib poses in her office in Tamra, in the eastern Galilee.. (photo credit: ELIYAHU KAMISHER)


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Although the swearing-in ceremony of five new qadis at the President’s Residence on Monday was a high point in all their lives and those of their families, only one of the five could be called a pioneer. She was Hana Mansour Khatib, the first woman in Israel to be appointed a judge in the Shari’a courts, which are the Muslim courts dealing with personal status.

The appointment, which was announced last month, was ratified only after Khatib had pledged in Hebrew and Arabic to judge fairly, not to judge on the basis of status and not to accept bribes.

“As long as I am president, qadis will always make the pledge in Arabic as well as Hebrew,” declared Rivlin, alluding to attempts by certain Knesset members to denigrate the status of the Arabic language in Israel.

Rivlin regards Arabic as one of the official languages of Israel, and this was not the first time that he had come out in its defense.

Khatib was the second of the five to take the pledge, and as she approached Shari’a Court of Appeals President Abd-Al-Hakim Samara, Rivlin and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked to receive the certificate confirming her appointment, Shaked’s face broke out in a smile of delight, and she hugged Khatib in a congratulatory embrace.

Later, Shaked announced from the podium that she was very excited. Referring to the appointments committee for judges to the Shari’a courts, she said: “We have succeeded in doing something that our predecessors could not do. We have overcome our differences; we have learned to compromise and we have a record number of qadis in total.”

Altogether there are nine Shari’a courts in Israel today and 17 qadis. Female qadis serve in the Shari’a courts in Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt and Jordan, but not in Iran, said Shaked – and up till now, not in Israel.

Arab politicians had been trying for several years to have a female appointed as qadi, she said, but there had been strong opposition. This time, there was consensus.

Turning toward Khatib, Shaked said: “I’m so glad that we broke another glass ceiling in Arab society.” The appointment, she continued, should serve as an incentive to young Arab women to study and achieve their potential.

“Don’t let anyone tell you different,” she said.

Samara was no less enthusiastic than Shaked, telling Khatib that as an outcome of the appointment that she so richly deserves, “Muslim women today get the equal status and respect that they merit.” He is hopeful, as are Shaked and Rivlin, that Khatib would not be the only woman qadi, but the first of many.

Samara also lavished praise on Shaked, saying: “Without you, we would not have come to where we are today.” He called her “a very courageous justice minister” and lauded her for her deep understanding of the needs of the Shari’a courts.

Rivlin decided to take on the role of the representative of the people who will come before the five new qadis, who in addition to Khatib are Ayid Ahalka, Mahmoud Azem, Salem Alsana and Tarut Midlij.

“I stand here as a representative of all those who will come before you – men, women and children."

"I am here to remind you that the qadi, judge or arbitrator is not just wise and knowledgeable about the law, religious or secular, but is one who first and foremost serves the public. The Shari’a courts have the trust and appreciation of Israel’s Muslim community. Hearts and minds look to you in hope, faith and prayer for you to act with consideration and compassion toward all those who come to you for judgment.

“You carry with you from today the role of dealing with our homes and our families. The qadi enters into the private lives of couples and families, into the souls of men, women and children. When you come to serve justice, remember also to be merciful and kind. Remember that before you stand men and women who put nothing less than their lives in your hands.”

With regard to Khatib, Rivlin said that her appointment is a testament to positive change in the status of women – and not just in the Muslim community.

The Shari’a courts have existed in this country since the time of the Ottoman Empire.

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