Greece to limit Sharia law for Turkish minority after court challenge

The Greek parliament is working on a draft law to limit the powers of Islamic courts over the family matters of some 100,000 Muslim Turks in the northeast of the country.

The proposal aims to abolish rules that referred the civil cases involving members of the Muslim community to Sharia law courts, the Associated Press said.

Currently, Islamic court hearings are presided over by a single official; a state-appointed Muslim cleric, AP reported. With the new legislation, Greek courts will have priority in all cases, it said.

The changes follow a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) over an inheritance dispute by a Muslim woman who lives in the north-eastern city of Komotini, AP said.

Legislation concerning minority rights was based on international treaties in the aftermath of the Ottoman Empire’s collapse, but Greek governments in the past have been reluctant to amend minority rights, as many disputes between Greece and Turkey remain unresolved, AP reported.

While the majority of the parties in the Greek Parliament support the bill, the extreme-right Golden Dawn party opposes it, saying that it fails to outline remaining powers of the Islamic courts, and does not address the issue of locally-elected Muslim clerics who don’t hold an official status but still influence the minority community, AP said.