Law panel Proposes – Abolish Islamic Polygamy, Bring Assets of Church under Trust

published on January 8, 2009



Church, Muslims oppose law panel proposals

VR Jayaraj | Kozhikode- Daily Pioneer

Even
as several of the recommendations of the Kerala Law Reforms Commission,
appointed by the LDF Government, have already enraged different
communities, those who support the recommendations are apprehending
that the Government is likely to put the report of the commission, to
be presented on January 24, in the freezer in the context of the coming
Lok Sabha elections which would force the LDF not to antagonise the
religious communities.

The report of the commission, headed by
retired Justice VR Krishna Iyer, has made many proposals that could go
against the interests of certain communities but at the same time some
sections in these communities have been demanding these proposals for
quite a long time. The proposals are to be included in a Bill after
further examinations and passed in the Assembly.

The commission
has proposed among reforms almost total abolition of polygamy (among
Muslims) and begetting more than two children per couple and permission
for euthanasia (suggestions that cause worry to the Catholic Church).
The report also says that the wealth and assets of the Christian
churches should be brought under three-tier trusts. Several sections of
Muslims and the Catholic Church have already made it clear that they
would not allow the reforms to be implemented.

Four groups of
believers in the Catholic Church had earlier submitted a memorandum to
the commission demanding steps to bring the assets of the Church under
trusts. Trusts had been looking after the Church’s assets till 1992
when the Canon laws governing this were approved by Rome.

Four
Catholic laymen’s groups – Catholic Laymen’s Association, Kerala Latin
Catholic Association (Pulloodan), All India Catholic Association and
Kerala Knanaya Catholic Accociation – have formed a federation to press
for their demand for bringing the church properties under trusts.

Federation
chairman and Catholic Laymen’s Association general secretary ML George
said they would soon start a State-wide campaign demanding the passage
of a Bill containing the provisions suggested by the Law Reforms
Commission. He said public meetings, awareness campaigns and vehicle
processions would be held all over the State for convincing the people
and the Government about the need of such a Bill.

“Several
denominations like the Jacobite and the Marthomite Christians have
trusts to look after their property but the Catholic Church does not
have such an arrangement. It alone does not have a democratic system on
such matters,” George said.

At the same time, several Muslim
outfits and the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Conference (KCBC), the
umbrella association of the bishops of all the 29 Catholic dioceses of
Kerala, have opposed the recommendations made by the Justice Iyer
commission. They said that these recommendations were in violation of
the systems of their religions and hence could not be agreed to.

Kanthapuram
AP Aboobacker Musliar, leader of the Sunni Muslim sect in Kerala which
was a supporter of the LDF, said the recommendation to abolish polygamy
was against Qur’an and Islam and was intended to ridicule Muslims. He
said his outfit would oppose any move to implement the recommendation.

Kerala
Nadvat’ul Mujahiddeen (KNM), the organisation of Mujahid Muslims known
for their progressive outlook, also spoke against the recommendation on
polygamy. KNM leader Hussein Madavoor said total abolition of polygamy
could not be accepted. He said what was needed was not a ban but
efforts to create awareness.

The KCBC has already made its
objections formal through a statement which said that most of the
recommendations in the report could not be accepted. Fr Stephen
Alathara, spokesman for the KCBC, said in the statement that the
Catholic Church would never accept the recommendations for refusing
concessions to parents with more than two kids, to permit euthanasia
and to do away with the provision making suicide a crime.

The
council would strongly oppose the Government through legal and other
means if the Government went ahead with the plan to implement these
recommendations, he said. Equally unacceptable were the recommendations
for constituting trusts to manage the wealth of Christian churches and
to appoint commissioners for them, he said.

The federation of
the four Catholic laymen’s association said they would put pressure on
the Government to implement the recommendations by passing a Bill in
the Assembly. They feared that the LDF Government might not want to
take up the recommendations immediately as it would not want to
antagonise the Church and the Muslims on the eve of a general election.

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