CAIRO – The Australian attorney general has rejected the use of Islamic Shari`ah by Muslims to write their wills, offending Muslims who argue Australian courts should respect the religious wishes of all citizens.
"There is no place for shari`ah law in Australian society and the government strongly rejects any proposal for its introduction, including in relation to wills and succession," Attorney-General Nicola Roxon told The Australian on Saturday, March 17.
Australian Muslim have been urging recognition of the Shari`ah Islamic law to boost integration and assimilation.
But, the government officials believe that citizenship pledge makes clear that becoming a citizen means obeying Australian laws and upholding Australian values.
"The Australian government is committed to protecting the right of all people to practice their religion without intimidation or harassment, but always within the framework of Australian law," Roxon added.
The calls were repeated following a recent decision by the ACT Supreme Court in Canberra last week, when a daughter of a devout Muslim woman demanded she receive the same inheritance as her brothers.
Fatma Omari argued that Australian law, not Islamic law, should apply to her mother Mariem's will, despite it outlining her mother's wishes to follow shari`ah by giving her three sons full shares and her daughters half-shares of her estate.
The government says that wills and succession are governed by state and territory law and that Muslim citizens should be aware that citizenship requires adherence to Australian law, even in planning wills.
Islam, as a divine religion, sets down rules that strike a balance between men's responsibilities and women's rights.
Islam gives the girl half of her brother's share in inheritance because Islamic Law doesn't oblige her to spend any money on anybody other than herself.
On the other hand, Muslim man, who is usually the bread-winner of the family, is obliged to spend on his wife, his children, his brothers, his sisters, and his mother and father.
Muslims voiced concern, saying the court’s decision could have serious ramifications in the Australian Islamic community, particularly in caring for the elderly.
"There are very compelling reasons why Muslims should be allowed to live by the requirements from Islam when it comes to their estates," the president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Ikebal Adam Patel, told The Australian.
“I think there are serious family and social implications here.
"A precedent could be set here whereby all similar cases might be decided against the will of the person making the will when they very strictly wanted to abide by religion," he added.
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.
Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population.
Islam is the country's second largest religion after Christianity.
March 17, 2012, On Islam