President Reuven Riuvlin (front 2nd right) and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (front 2nd leftL) at an appointment ceremony for seven new Qadis to the Shariah courts, Jerusalem, February 9, 2016.
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked are keen advocates for gender parity in nearly all sectors of public life.
They joined forces on Tuesday evening to advocate for female Qadis to be appointed to the Shariah courts. A Qadi is a judge who interprets civil, judicial and religious matters according to traditional Islamic law.
Speaking at a ceremony at the President’s Residence where seven new Qadis were appointed to the Shariah courts, Rivlin noted that in societies in which traditional customs are derided and values different to those observed for generations are being promoted, the religious judge often becomes the guardian of tradition, seeking to safeguard what is most precious to him.
But changes in times and values do not always constitute a threat, he said. Sometimes they offer the opportunity for renewal and a fresh approach. In the sphere of opportunity Rivlin pointed to the changing role of women in Muslim society. There are women Qadis in Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates and even the Palestinian Authority, he said, so there is no reason not to have women Qadis in Israel, serving side by side with male Qadis.
Ziad Lahwani and Mohammed Abu Obeid were appointed as Shariah Court of Appeal judges, whereas Assam abu Alu, Ahmad Kayal, Mamon Hassan Kenan, Abbas Abd Alkarim and Rafet Awida were appointed to serve as Qadis in the Shariah regional courts.
Shaked noted that almost seven years have passed since Qadis were last appointed, and promised that there would be at least one more round of appointments in 2016. She voiced the hope that “at least one woman” would be included in the next list of appointees.
In 2015, more than 31,000 files were opened in the Shariah courts. Shaked acknowledged that the system is bogged down by bureaucracy and a huge backlog of cases. She was hopeful that this would be eased once the new Qadis take office. “I am open to any suggestion that will help lighten your load,” she told the new appointees, who had each made their pledge of allegiance in Hebrew and Arabic.
Shaked also deplored the increase of domestic violence and asked the Qadis to use their influence to reduce it.
Shariah Court of Appeals President Daoud Zini thanked Shaked and others in the Justice Ministry for accelerating the appointments. He too referred to violence and the spilling of blood of innocent people, saying that Muslim law is against this just as it is opposed to setting fire to non-Muslim houses of worship and the burning of holy books. “We are commanded to protect the sanctity of the holy places of others, just as we would our own,” he said, adding that the safety of every individual must be guaranteed.
“We must learn to live in peace and harmony. We must learn to live in accordance with the values of Islam and democracy in the pursuit of justice,” said Zini, concluding with the hope that all present would live to see peace and security.
The appointments ceremony came less than a week after Rivlin had presided over the appointments of 22 judges to the civil courts. That had been the second such ceremony this year. There were also 22 judges appointed in January, and more appointments are expected in coming months.
Although there was a considerable difference in the number of judges and Qadis, the number of family, friends and dignitaries who came to witness the latter ceremony was almost the same as the former, and far more ceremonial from the Arab perspective. Women and children came in their finery and nearly all the men wore suits.