Women's Issues In Guyana

Muslims tell ERC they want polygamy institutionalized

Posted in Culture & Society,Religion by wiig on April 2, 2008
Tags: , , ,

Stabroek News – April 2, 2008

Muslim leaders told the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) that they are concerned about religious intolerance displayed by some employers who are reluctant to grant Muslim employees time-off to pray on Fridays and they also called for polygamy to be institutionalized.

According to an ERC press release, Chairman Bishop Juan Edghill said the group had received similar complaints before but had managed to settle the specific issues amicably. However, he said there was greater need for religious sensitivity towards Muslims and other religious practices.

Meanwhile, Private Sector representative at the ERC L John P Willems said the crossing of cultures is necessary to dispel suspicion and foster harmony in a multicultural society like Guyana. Willems told the Muslim constituency at the ERC’s annual constituency consultation, held at its Secretariat on Thursday, that emphasis must be placed on exploring “the richness of our multicultural diversity” rather than a preoccupation with one’s own culture. He said despite the ‘mixing’ in business transactions and other areas Guyanese “seldom get an opportunity to really understand the intricate details of each other’s culture.” He urged Muslim leaders to use the medium of television to explore this option.  

Muslim leaders also said the issue of polygamy needed to be institutionalised. Edghill advised them to petition the National Assembly to debate the issue. Further, concerns were raised about stringent measures taken by law enforcement and social services officials against Nikka marriages performed for female Muslims under the age of consent.

The representative noted that Muslim culture allows a girl’s parent “to give consent for her marriage in preservation of dignity and religious sanctity.” However, it was noted that if a marriage performed under such circumstances is brought to the attention of the social services ministry parents may be charged. The representatives posited that this law should be reviewed.

Additionally, Muslim representatives requested that the ERC lobby the Guyana Prison Service to make provision for their followers to wear three-quarter pants as opposed to the knee-length uniform for inmates whose prison terms have been confirmed.

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