Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Conversion and Personal Status Law

Al-Monitor reports on Jordanian Christian men who convert to Islam so as get better divorce settlements:
While a man who converts to Islam and divorces his wife is easily able to remarry, a Christian divorcee seldom has the same freedom. The Jordanian Catholic courts rarely recognize divorces conducted by Shariah court judges, in essence keeping Christian women chained in a marriage that no longer exists. Only when Mary switched from Catholicism to Greek Orthodoxy did a church judge finally grant her a divorce in 2015, two years after her husband divorced her in a Shariah court.
Christian women whose husbands convert to Islam face additional discrimination beyond child custody Since only Muslims can receive financial inheritance from other Muslims, according to Article 281 of Jordan’s Personal Status Law, a Christian wife and children face challenging economic conditions after the death of a husband or father. All Christian family members are forbidden to inherit from Muslim relatives...
The sheikh also said that a Muslim father has the right to overrule a Christian mother’s objection to changing the religion of their child from Christianity to Islam if the child is under age seven. When Al-Monitor asked why the Muslim father’s wishes held more weight than the Christian parent, Omari defended the policy, stating, “Islam believes in all of the previous prophets, including Jesus and Moses, but Christians don’t believe in the Muslim Prophet Muhammad."
Similar to Mary's situation, Sarah’s husband announced his conversion from Christianity to Islam in April 2015, when he filed for divorce. Sarah is most worried about the fate of her 3-year-old son. Her lawyer told her that her ex-husband will automatically gain custody of the boy when he turns 7 because Sarah is Christian. In an interview at Sarah’s home, she expressed her frustration to Al-Monitor: “I just want my child to stay with me [like they do with] Muslim women. They are mothers, and we Christians are not mothers? We are the same,” she said.
The important framing for this article, of course, is that medieval religious codes frame Jordan's personal status law.  It is worth mentioning, however, that personal status matters have actually been an important factor in conversion throughout history.  There is evidence that some Christian men have always converted to Islam hoping to practice polygamy.  Christian women have also converted to Islam to escape marriages to Christian men, since Christianity has historically opposed divorce but classical Islamic jurisprudence forbids a Muslim woman to be married to a Christian.  Similarly, a prohibition of non-Muslims owning Muslims as slaves has meant that converting to Islam could be a path out of slavery for those slaves owned by a Christian or Jew.

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