Gender bias behind negative views of Shariah courts, says female judge

Shariah High Court Judge of Selangor Noor Huda Roslan speaks during a seminar at the International Institute of Advance Islamic Studies in Kuala Lumpur July 19, 2016. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Shariah High Court Judge of Selangor Noor Huda Roslan speaks during a seminar at the International Institute of Advance Islamic Studies in Kuala Lumpur July 19, 2016. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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KUALA LUMPUR, July 19 ― A female Shariah court judge alleged today that negative perceptions of Islamic courts arose from assumptions of male judges being biased against women.

Shariah High Court judge Noor Huda Roslan expressed hopes that her appointment would change such assumptions of gender bias.

“As of now, we always hear people complaining that most of the male judges are biased against women. I do not think that is the issue; if we have more women judges then we can see that maybe women will do the same,” she told reporters after an event titled “Seminar On Women as Judges and Leaders” here.

“Let's say on the same issue ― maybe a male judge will make a decision and I believe that decision will be based on facts and law. And if it is a female judge, she will do the same,” she added.

Noor Huda also stressed that gender did not play a role in court judgments and female judges will not automatically decide in favour of women as they need to examine details of the case first.

Muslim women’s rights group Sisters in Islam has frequently complained that the Shariah court is often hostile to Muslim women and that many were allegedly stonewalled by the court in their divorce cases.

Many Muslim women in divorce cases face protracted proceedings to demand the alimony that is obliged on the ex-husband and to receive their share of matrimonial property.

Shariah Chief Judge of Selangor Datuk Dr Mohd Na'im Mokhtar speaks during a seminar at the International Institute of Advance Islamic Studies in Kuala Lumpur July 19, 2016.
Shariah Chief Judge of Selangor Datuk Dr Mohd Na'im Mokhtar speaks during a seminar at the International Institute of Advance Islamic Studies in Kuala Lumpur July 19, 2016.

Meanwhile, Shariah chief judge Datuk Dr Mohd Na'im Mokhtar said there is no shortage of competent women to become judges for the Shariah court as he observed many talents during his time as lecturer at International Islamic University Malaysia and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

“Majority of the students in that particular diploma are female. Since this is diploma, the questions we set are practical. And these students must assume they are the judges in the future,” he said in his speech at the seminar.

“So, I got that opportunity to see many female students answer those practical questions much better than the male students. It is just unfortunate if these intelligent women are deprived of their rights in becoming a judge just on the basis of the fact that she or they are women.”

Noor Huda, along with Nenney Shuhaidah Shamsuddin, were the first women from Selangor to be appointed as judges in the Shariah High Court.

The Star Online reported on June 27 that they received their appointment letters from the Sultan of Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah during a ceremony at the Istana Bukit Kayangan.

It was also reported that seven other women were made Shariah Lower Court judges.

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