12:00 AM, May 13, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, May 13, 2011

Verdict hailed

But strict watch stressed

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Hasan Jahid Tusher and Rizanuzzaman Laskar

Members of civil society, rights activists, Islamic scholars and academicians yesterday lauded the Supreme Court judgment that declared fatwa legal prohibiting its use in punishing anyone.
Stressing its strict implementation to contain abuse, they hoped misuse of fatwa will reduce if the government specifies the eligibility of the persons to be allowed to give fatwa (religious edict).
Some, however, warned of further exploitation of fatwa as the SC verdict termed it legal.
“It's an extremely positive verdict,” former caretaker government adviser Sultana Kamal tells The Daily Star.
But women's rights activist Maleka Begum said: “Regardless of what the full verdict says, the first part, which terms fatwa legal, will undoubtedly have a negative impact.”
“Following this verdict, I hope Imams and other Islamic professionals who normally give fatwa will be more aware and the torture in its name will scale down significantly,” said Abdullah Maruf, one of the five Islamic scholars who requested the SC to cancel a High Court verdict that declared fatwa illegal.
Sultana Kamal, however, said there are confusions on the definition of “properly educated persons,” who can issue fatwa, and the “religious matters”, based on which fatwa can be given.
“But we're happy that there are safeguards in the verdict which says that fatwa cannot be issued to violate rights or harm reputation or dignity of any person, which is covered by the law,” said Sultana, executive director of Ain o Salish Kendra.
But much of the success will depend on its implementation by the law enforcers, she observed.
Maruf suggested the government specify the eligibility of the scholars to deliver fatwa in line with the apex court judgement. Saying their opinions to the SC have been reflected in the verdict, he opined that anyone misusing fatwa should be immediately arrested.
Also hailed the verdict is Dhaka University Vice-chancellor Prof AAMS Arefin Siddique. According to him, the judgment will definitely reduce punishments and other brutality in the name of fatwa.
Karmojibi Nari founding President Shirin Akhter and general secretary Sharmin Kabir in a statement expressed satisfaction over the verdict but said everyone needs to be vigilant so that none can misuse the fatwa to resort to violence against women.
“The government must ensure the verdict will be implemented accordingly,” the statement read.
Shaheen Anam, executive director of Manusher Jonno Foundation, believes scopes of misusing fatwa remains, which could increase violence against women.
“Although it [the verdict] says that fatwa cannot be forced, in reality, it is being forced,” she said, adding that this will be fuelled by the fact that many people will not read the full verdict; all they will see is that fatwa has been declared legal.
Maleka Begum fears that things will become worse for women now that fatwa has been declared legal.
Undoubtedly, people who mean to misuse it will go on to misuse it, she says, for we live in such a country where even the constitution is violated.
“It would have been better had the court specified the cases where fatwa would not be allowed,” she notes.

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