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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ugandan legislation pits Muslims vs. Christians over power of courts

Christians call a proposed religious law a sly attempt to favor Muslims in this predominantly Christian country and warn that it could promote Islamic fundamentalism. Muslims say the reaction to the bill just shows Islamophobia.

The Muslim Personal Law bill - which would give more power to Islamic Kadhi courts for Muslims on matters of marriage, divorce and inheritance - is straining relations between Uganda’s two largest religious groups.

Each side is vowing to resist the other to protect what both say are the fundamental rights of their respective communities.

The dispute also highlights an apparent contradiction between two sections of the Ugandan Constitution.

Muslims, who make up roughly 12 percent of Uganda’s 32 million people, point to Article 129 of the constitution, which explicitly allows for the creation of Kadhi civil courts. Under current law, Kadhi court decisions are not legally binding.

Christians argue that Article 129 conflicts with another section of the constitution, Article 21, which states that all people are equal under the law in all spheres of life. Institutionalizing the Islamic courts would give the country two parallel legal systems that would undermine the secular nature of the Ugandan Constitution, Christian leaders say.

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