Saturday, January 10, 2009

Church, Muslims oppose law panel proposals

Church, Muslims oppose law panel proposals
Author: VR Jayaraj
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: January 9, 2009

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

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
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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