Greece Votes to Make Sharia Courts Optional for Muslim Minority

Greece Votes to Make Sharia Courts Optional for Muslim Minority

Greek lawmakers on Tuesday overwhelming backed legislation to limit the purview of Islamic religious courts over the almost 120,000-Muslim minority in the region of Western Thrace.

Backed by parliament's strongest political parties, the draft law is set to be voted on later Tuesday.

Legislation concerning minority rights was based on worldwide treaties following wars in the aftermath of the Ottoman empire's collapse. Greek courts now will have priority in all cases. Currently Greece is home to around 110,000 Muslims who mainly reside in Thrace.

However Greece is not the only European country that offers an Islamic justice system within the overall legal framework.

In parliament Tuesday, Constantine Gavroglou, minister of education and religious affairs, praised opposition party support for the bill.

During a visit to Greece last month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted that Athens was failing to adhere to the treaty by refusing to respect the country΄s Muslim minority.

In a statement, Tsiparas said that as a member of the European Union, Greece is committed to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Among other things, the treaty involved a population exchange of some 2 million people between Turkey and Greece, except for on some Aegean islands and the Greek Orthodox community in Istanbul and the largely Turkish-speaking Muslim community in Western Thrace.

"Respecting in every way the unique characteristics of the Muslim minority in Thrace, the government, with the bill, rectifies past injustices against its members", Tsipras said, adding that under the previous situation, many Muslims had been deprived of individual rights "which all Greeks should enjoy".

However a complaint brought against Greece regarding Sharia law by a 67-year-old widow has revealed that the system often discriminates against women. All parties voted in favor of the bill except the far-right Golden Dawn party, which opposed it because they said it failed to spell out what powers will be retained by Islamic courts.

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