Two Sydney children have been placed in foster care and their 17-year-old brother permitted to live with his violent father after their Lebanese-born mother cited “Islamic law” as the reason she was unable to care for them.
This highlights how courts are increasingly having to deal with the fallout from arrangements struck under Sharia law. The mother argued sharia law prevented her children living with her because her new husband should not be burdened with the responsibility for caring for them. Sharia law was also invoked in a matter heard in November by a South Australian court, where disagreement over an alleged loan was complicated by the existence of two contracts; one in English referring to a sum of $70,000 plus interest, another in Farsi that made no mention of interest.
Under Islamic law lending money in return for interest is forbidden and the second document had been drafted for “religious reasons” to hide the fact interest was being charged. According to Hossein Esmaeili, an expert in Islamic law, many Australian Muslims distrust the secular legal system, preferring traditional religious oversight instead. Dr Esmaeili argues that there is significant evidence the broad principles of sharia are already being practised by Muslims in Australia. “While many Muslims in Australia do not support the introduction of sharia law, many follow certain sharia legal principles as part of their religious observances,” he said. “These include matters such as inheritance law, wills, paying special taxes, marriage and divorce, and matters relating to personal property, banking and finance.”
Dr Esmaeili says courts’ recognition of certain Islamic laws might help Muslims use Australia’s justice system more effectively and realise it can accommodate some sharia practices. In one high profile case heard by a NSW court and, on appeal, by the Supreme Court, an Islamic prenuptial agreement struck by a Sydney couple was found to be enforceable under the principles of contract law. The court found the husband had initiated separation from his wife and therefore owed her $50,000 in compensation, a sharia dowry. The 2012 case was thought to be the first of its kind in Australia. According to the appeal judge, it raised the issue of the way agreements based on religious or cultural tradition should be dealt with in Australian society.
Dr Esmaeili said many Westerners associated sharia with harsh punishments and believed it to be incompatible with secular society. But it was, he pointed out, a broad philosophy governing most aspects of a Muslim’s life, ranging from daily rituals such as prayer through to the way they arranged business affairs. He said aspects of sharia were “problematic”, such as the ancient doctrine of kofr, which separated Muslims and non-Muslims, but few Muslims wanted those applied in Australia. “Australia’s legal system is secular and 99.9% of the community is happy with that, including Muslims,” he said. “It is not that courts are applying Islamic law, more they are referencing Islamic principles. And this tends to apply to the law of contracts, not criminal law, and nor should it.” Dr Esmaeilj said.
In the case of the Sydney children placed in foster care, the Family Court heard the 9 and 14-year-olds had effectively been abandoned by their mother, who divorced their father and later remarried. Their father, also born in Lebanon, was deemed violent, lacking in parental authority and incapable of attending to the children’s needs. “The mother has completely abrogated her responsibilities as a parent in refusing to have the children live with her and proffering as an excuse that her new husband should not be required to care for another man’s children as it’s contrary to Islamic law,” the judgment said. The court ordered the two youngest into state care, with only supervised contact with either parent. Dr Esmaeili said “She may have made the claim, but it is not based on Islamic law,” he said.
CHRISTIANITY IS THE GREATEST SHAPER OF AUSTRALIA SAYS JOHN HOWARD
Should the influence of Christian values be consigned to the history books? This was the question posed to former Prime Minister John Howard by Eternity recently. In his response, Howard stood firm on his credentials as a person of faith himself, while recognising that arguments today had to appeal to the whole community, not just to those who shared a Christian worldview. Identifying Judaeo-Christian values as the “greatest moral and ethical shaper of today’s Australia”, Howard argued that while we owe much to such institutions as the United Nations and documents like our constitution, much of what we value traces back to the teachings of Jesus. For instance, the separation of church and state, where he said: “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”
“The notion,” Howard said, “that Christian influence and values should be consigned to history books is a nonsense. Australians should be aware that there are some who would drive Christian religion out of the public space. For instance, attempts made by some state governments, especially in Victoria, to make it almost impossible to have religious instruction in state schools, although technically allowed but made practically very difficult, is an offensive manifestation of an anti-religious streak in some sections of government around Australia, and it ought not be taken lightly. “Those who would preference Jingle Bells but limit Once in Royal David’s City at Christmas in schools, are doing a great disservice to the next generation,” said Howard.
On the Safe Schools Coalition, Howard said his issue was not with anti-bullying programmes which he supports, but with the content of this programme in particular. He had looked closely at the material and his criticism was of the nature of the programme and the agenda being pushed. He said he was glad that the federal government was making some changes and allowing parents a say in what their children were being exposed to. He thought that a decision by the Victorian government to make the programme compulsory, irrespective of parental concerns, was excessive. Howard said that although he was a longstanding customer of a firm that was making public pronouncements on LGBTI issues, it had never asked him if he supported its position.
Howard said that he did not believe it was the role of business to act in this manner. He said the evidence supports the current definition of marriage. “Children do best when they grow up in a stable, traditional married family, with a mother and a father present.” he said. He went on, “I will not be supporting a change in the definition of marriage. He also expressed hope that the marriage debate would avoid name-calling and extreme slogans. “Those who favour marriage as it stands today are not bigots nor homophobes.” Howard said that at the right time and in the right place, he would add his voice to those working to preserve the current definition of marriage.
SACKING OF TRANSGENDER ADVOCATE SHOWS INTOLERANCE OF RAINBOW ACTIVISTS
The sacking of transgender advocate Catherine McGregor for speaking out against the so-called Safe Schools program, reinforces the concerns of many Australians that rainbow political ideology is becoming increasingly intolerant. Ms McGregor, 2016 Queenslander of the Year, was dismissed from the LGBTI activist organisation, Kaleidoscope Australia, for simply pointing out that Safe Schools was compromised by radical left-wing rainbow activists and promoted contested gender theory including that sexuality is fluid. “Ms McGregor is being sidelined for simply pointing out what Safe Schools founder Roz Ward has also admitted; that Safe Schools is not about stopping bullying,” Australian Christian Lobby Managing Director Lyle Shelton said.
“Is there no end to the intolerance of the rainbow warriors? There are already other anti-bullying programs that can better serve all children in schools. Australians are beginning to understand the consequences of introducing same-sex marriage in Australia. Safe Schools gender fluid teaching is a package deal with same-sex, gender-less marriage. Same-sex marriage will serve to weaponise the persecution of dissenters who do not believe gender is fluid or in removing gender from marriage. This clearly shows that for rainbow activists is not about supporting their own through anti-bullying programs but in driving an agenda that the LGBTI community or the Queenslander of the Year are not allowed to disagree with.” Shelton said.
“With proponents of same-sex marriage and ‘safe schools’ labelling anyone who questions their ideology as homophobes and bigots, most people are afraid to question this new normal.” Mr Shelton said it was vital Australians focussed on the consequences of redefining marriage and urged the Senate to pass the plebiscite enabling legislation so that people had the opportunity to hear the other side of the debate.
Christians across the nation and across the denominational spectrum are coming together in concerted prayer during October, at a time when the Federal parliament will be considering changes to the structure of marriage in this country. The initiative, by the Catholic Church’s Marriage and Family Council, is being strongly supported by many Christian denominations, organisations and networks represented in Australia. The Australian Prayer Network, which believes all Christians must stand in solidarity on this issue if the threat to traditional marriage is to be defeated, is encouraging all our members to join in the month of prayer with their brothers and sisters in Christ. Each week we are publishing prayer points covering the focus being followed by all Churches, organisations and networks.
This week commencing 8th October, the focus of the prayer thrust will be praying for all families in distress. Please pray:
* for the restoration and healing of all marriages which are under strain.
* that God would draw close to all families who have experienced violence, upheaval, illness or division.
* that God would bring comfort and healing to all families that have been wounded by broken relationships.
Our Mission Statement, Thanking God . . . thanking each other, is about being thankful. First to God for the Nation we live in and the blessings and freedoms we enjoy. And second is thanking each other – thanking those who have made a difference in our lives and the life of our community. It is to this second part of our Mission Statement that we provide a suggested focus to help churches and individuals find ways to celebrate our National Day.
For 2017 we are providing a Community Focus and a Personal Focus to help you find ways to say Thank You.
Community Focus – we suggest thanking people who work in The Trades Tradesmen, Tradeswomen and Apprentices such as Electricians, Plumbers, Carpenters, Builders, Tilers, Painters, and Auto Mechanics to name just a few. We often call on these services in emergencies or late at night when something goes wrong. Thank them for their service to our lives and our communities.
Personal Focus – the Unsung Heroes in your life Who are they? They are always there when you need them. They encourage you when you’re down, they laugh with you, or give you a shoulder to cry on. They can be your friends, family members, work mates, school mates or Uni friends. And what about that long lost friend or family member? Reconnect with them and tell them how much you have appreciated their friendship. Whoever they are, make a point of thanking them.
Have you thought about organising a Community Festival?
You could hold a combined churches community wide Free Family Fun Day. Have a look at our new Community Festivals page under the How To menu for ideas about what you can do. www.austhanks.org.au As always we encourage you to look for different ways to express thankfulness as you celebrate our National Day of Thanks, and also in the way you live.