The Greek Parliament adopted a new law that enables members of the country’s Muslim community to have family and inheritance law judged before the Greek secular courts, rather than by Islamic sharia courts, reported The Guardian.
According to arrangements Greece made with Turkey in the Treaty of Sevres (1920) and Lausanne (1923), Muslims who became citiznes of Greece after World War I were obligated to adjudicate matters of child custody, divorce and inheritance according to Islamic law. The treaties concerned two million people transferred between Greece and Turkey; both countries put into place laws that covered their minority population that remained in the countries.
The Greek Muslim community in question is roughly 110,000-120,000 strong and mainly resides in Thrace, in the east of the country on the border with Turkey.
Islamic religious courts will still exist, but will only be able to apply their rulings with the consent of all parties. Greece is the only country in the European Union with Islamic religious courts.
Prime Minister Alexis Tspiras hailed the vote as an “historic step” which “extended equality before the law to all Greeks.” The bill was also supported by the opposition.
The timing of the case is political. A case was recently heard by the European Court of Human Rights ivolving this very same issue. The case was brought to the court by a 67-year-old Muslim widow, Hatijah Molla Salli from the city of Komotini in Western Thrace, who is involved in an inheritance dispute with her late husband’s sisters.
She initially won her case in a Greek secular court, but the Greek Supreme Court overturned the ruling, saying that only a mufti from the Islamic court can determine inheritance law.
Commenting on the new legislation, Salli’s lawyer Yannis Ktistakis said, “The government is only acting to prevent condemnation by the [European] court, which, as everyone knows, is inevitable.”