The Legal Experience Project has worked in close partnership with the Muslim Personal Law Network to develop an important new feminist voice in Muslim family law reform in SA.
In 2016, the Gender and Religion programme at the University of Kwa Zulu Natal (UKZN) hosted a Roundtable on Muslim Personal Law Reform inaugurated by a keynote speech by Zainah Anwar, director of Musawah. Following on the deep and engaging discussion that followed through the workshop the group agreed to form a WhatsApp group for future networking. During the two years thereafter, the group grew to include other stakeholders and key role players, while providing a valuable space for sharing knowledge, resources, skills and fostering solidarity amongst the members of the group. As such, the Muslim Personal Law Network is national network of diverse Muslim women activists, counsellors, attorneys and academics in South Africa. Their work brings together academic research, legal expertise and activism with real lived experiences of Muslim personal law in South Africa. Achieving justice and respect within the Muslim family and by extension the broader Muslim community is the principle undergirding their work.
Since 2016, the MPL has held third roundtables
MPL Roundtable March 2018: Cape Town, African Gender Institute
Each panel began with 3 presentations: all 10 minutes in duration. The presentations focused on the legal perspectives, experiential, and the academic. Following the presentations, we had 1-hour long discussions regarding what was raised in the presentations, and any questions. The discussions revolved around the ethics of marriage, divorce, inheritance, and estate planning. The discussions also included the intersections of Islamic law and South African secular law, and the challenges thereof. Generally, the questions raised were addressed to Sheikh Muneer Abdura’oaf, the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) representative.
The speakers for each panel were as follows:
Farhana Ismail, Khadija Bassier, Sheikh Dr. Muneer Abdura-oaf Divorce Panel
Hoodah Faykerm Dr. Fatima Seedat, Ayesha Royker Inheritance and Estate Planning Panel
Associate Professor Dr. Waheeda Amien, Rumana Mohamed
MPL Roundtable July 2019: Durban, UKZN School of Religion
The 2019 MPL Roundtable had three panels: marriage, divorce and inheritance. Each panel began with presentations of 10 minutes in duration. The presentations focused on the legal perspectives, experiential, the ulama, and the academic. Thereafter, a sixty-minute discussion revolving around the ethics of marriage, divorce, inheritance, and estate planning occurred. The discussions also included the intersections of Islamic law and South African secular law, and the challenges thereof. However, unlike in 2018, the questions were not aimed primarily at the ulama representatives. This year, the questions were aimed at all the presenters. There were real discussions happening, heated debates, and highly technical pondering - often raising more questions than answers.
The speakers for 2019 included:
Farhana Ismail, Hafez Fuzail Soofie, Sheikh Hamza Mbhele, Furhana Abdul- Haq Divorce Panel:
MPL Roundtable August/September 2020: Zoom (due to covid-19 regulations)
Unfortunately, due to the Covid19 outbreak in South Africa, the 2020 MPL roundtable was forced to switch to online platforms to host its annual roundtable, which was meant to be in Johannesburg. However, this resulted in a broader outreach with people from all over the globe participating. Due to various considerations, such as zoom fatigue, the roundtable was spread over a period of two days. The marriage panel took place on Sunday, 30th August 2020 and the divorce and inheritance panels took place on Saturday, 5th September 2020.