Muslim clerics slammed the appointment of the first-ever female judge to serve in Israel’s sharia court system on Thursday, warning Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked “not to intervene in matters of Islam.”
The religious officials, led by deputy head of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Kamal Khatib, said that “Islam does not allow a woman to be Qadit (a sharia judge),” according to the Ynet news website.
On Tuesday, Shaked’s Committee to Elect Sharia Judges unanimously appointed Hana Khatib, in a move hailed by some Arab lawmakers as historic.
Khatib is from the town of Tamra in the lower Galilee region. She specializes in family and sharia law, is married and has four children.
Sharia courts in Israel deal with personal status issues for the Muslim community, such as marriage, divorce, conversion, inheritance and prevention of domestic violence.
Israel’s corresponding Jewish religious courts have yet to see a female judge of their own.
Shaked, a member of the right-wing Jewish Home party, said the appointment of a female Muslim religious judge “should have happened a long time ago.”
Joint (Arab) List MK Aida Touma-Sliman called the appointment “a historic step in the Arab feminist movement in Israel, a step that benefits not only Arab-Muslim women, but the entire Arab population in Israel.”
But the deputy head of the hardline Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, an outlawed movement, expressed his strong disapproval. “I smell a political deal here in the sharia court system,” Sheikh Khatib said. “I am not a mufti, but the opinion in the Islamic sharia is that a woman should not be appointed as a qadit.”
Referencing the members of the election commission, Sheikh Khatib added that some of them “have nothing to do with the religion of Islam…the connection of some of them to Islamic law is like my connection to space science.”
The Southern Branch of the Islamic Movement, meanwhile, supported Hana Khatib’s appointment and wished her success.
Responding to the criticism, Meretz MK Issawi Frej, a member of Shaked’s committee, pointed out that the commission included Sharia Court of Appeals President Kadi Abd Al-Hakim Samara as well as other sharia and legal experts who ensured that all steps were completed “in the most professional manner.”
“I am a Muslim, and I am convinced that this is a historic step, and one that our religion can be proud of,” Frej added.
Dov Lieber contributed to this report.