Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Masters degrees for Syariah judges

PUTRAJAYA: All Syariah court judges will soon have at least a Masters degree and be sent for special courses in Egypt and United Kingdom to expand their knowledge, experience and exposure, particularly in handling increasingly complicated cases due to modernisation and development.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said 10 of the 200-odd Syariah judges were already going for weekend courses at the Islamic International University for various Masters programme while some were now in Egypt and the UK.

"This effort is crucial due to complexities faced by judges in dealing with Syariah cases. I firmly believe there is nothing like experience and exposure to help them in their work,” he said.

Ahmad Zahid was speaking to reporters after attending a two-hour briefing at the Syariah Judiciary Department on Monday.

This was his first visit to the department after taking office as the minister in charge of religious affairs.

He said cases handled by Syariah courts were no longer just about settling divorces, determining the quantum for child support or dealing with religious offences.

Division of property due to divorce, he added, were not as “simple” nor as clear cut as before while apostasy and renouncing Islam has also resulted in cases being becoming more complex.

“Progress has led to intricacies in dealing with such cases. If in those days divorce meant giving weapons to the man and the cutlery to the wife, today it is not just about who takes the house or land, but also division of shares, stocks and bonds, and also EPF savings.

“Judges also have to deal with issues outside the syariah law such as financial laws. Hence, the need for the 200-odd syariah judges to constantly keep themselves abreast with knowledge to help them deal with `difficult’ cases brought before them,” he said.

As for cases involving apostates and Muslims renouncing the religion, Ahmad Zahid said he would talk on the issue after having a special discussion with experts and ulamaks on the matter, but admitted that such cases were also a “problem for syariah judges”.

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