The Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board (LAB), Ms. Fatmata Carlton-Hanciles has urged Imams to encourage their followers to treat their wives with respect and pay child maintenance. ‘We have many Muslim fathers who do not take care of their children,’ she said. ‘The Board is overwhelmed by the sheer volume of child maintenance matters it has to mediate on a daily basis. You can help us reduce this number by impressing on your followers to take care of their children. We know the Holy Quran is very clear on this issue.’ She added.
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles made this appeal while speaking to over eighty Imams of the United Council of Imams and other Islamic clerics from Western Area and other parts of the country, including Bonthe and Karena Districts.
She also seized the moment to urge Imams to encourage their followers to marry one wife like men in Saudi Arabia do. ‘Saudi men do not marry more than one wife and mind you this is what we would call the Headquarter of the Islamic Religion.’ She said. She noted that even though Muslims can marry up to four wives, it is impossible to love them equally as stated in the Holy Quran.
She assured members of the Council that the Board will stand with them as some go through a particularly difficult time bordering on their safety and respect. She assured them that the Board will provide legal assistance to any Imam who feels his human right is threatened as he goes about religious duties.
‘Any Imam with any need for justice should feel free to come to our office for free legal assistance,’ she said. ‘We will make sure you feel free and able to do your work in peace because the country will be in problem if you are not able to do your work”. She concluded.
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles admonished the Imams to be measured in their tone and eschew anger. She said the violent clashes between the members of the Mosque in Lumley and other members of the community could have been avoided had the Imams intervened soonest and cautioned their followers. She appealed to the Imams not to take the law into the own hands and refer matters to the Police or Board as the case may be.
The President of the Council, Dr. Mohamed Habib Sheriff assured the Board that changes will come but it will be gradual. ‘We need to build knowledge to change tradition,’ he said.
He noted they may have their differences in the Muslims community and that harnessing these differences will make them stronger. He said he is not happy with the way some Muslim men treat their wives but assured that they will continue to build awareness to bring about the desired change.
<‘The Board is overwhelmed by the sheer volume of child maintenance matters it has to mediate on a daily basis. You can help us reduce this number by impressing on your followers to take care of their children. We know the Holy Quran is very clear on this issue.’>