CAIRO - Uganda Muslims have urged the parliament to pass a new bill to allow shari`ah courts in order to improve services of jurisdiction in the African country and reduce case backlog in secular courts.
Marriage issues in Islam cannot be compared to those of any other faith, Sheikh Abbas Kakungulu, an Ugandan Muslim scholar, told New Vision newspaper on Friday, January 11.
This Bill will help us have peace in our homes.
The new bill, suggesting Khadi (or Shari`ah) courts in Uganda, was first presented by Jaffer Sseganda, the president of the Muslim Council for justice and law.
Speaking at the launch of a baseline survey report on informal Muslim justice centers in Kampala, Sseganda said that many Muslims were comfortable having their cases handled in Khadi courts instead of the secular ones.
The report also referred to challenges facing the administration and what should be done to improve their services.
The suggestion was applicable under article 129 of the Ugandan constitution which suggests the courts of judicature entitled to exercise the judicial power of Uganda.
These courts include Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the High Court and subordinate courts such as Parliament.
The Constitution adds that these courts may establish khadi courts to handle marriage as well as cases of divorce, inheritance of property and guardianship.
Muslims comprise some 14 percent of the predominantly Christian country's 32-million population, according to the CIA Factbook.
In Islam, Shari`ah governs all issues in Muslims' lives from daily prayers to fasting and from, marriage and inheritance to financial disputes.
The Islamic rulings, however, do not apply on non-Muslims, even if in a dispute with non-Muslims.
The bill was supported by Uganda law Reform Commission as a Muslim minority right.
The Khadi courts will be run according to the Shari`ah law, but supervised by the High Court, Lilianne Kiwanuka, a senior legal officer at the Uganda law Reform Commission.
Those who are not satisfied with their judgments will be at liberty to appeal in the High Court, Kiwanuka said.
She added that the Bill will be presented to Cabinet soon, noting that the bill will outline the administration of Khadi courts and their jurisdiction.
She added that officials prevailing over the Khadi courts will be sensitized on which cases to handle and those to refer to the secular courts.
She advised that if Muslims feel they are not comfortable with certain clauses in the Bill, they will have to wait until it comes to parliament before they can give their views.
Shari`ah councils have long been operational in some non-Muslim countries such as Britain. They usually focus on issues dealing with marriage and divorce.
These courts also exist in parts of Greece.