Thai Islamic leaders tighten rules on child marriage

Thailand’s Central Islamic Council has, for the first time in history, issued a ban on child marriage nationwide. (Shutterstock)
Updated 15 December 2018
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Thai Islamic leaders tighten rules on child marriage

BANGKOK: Islam’s guiding council in Thailand has introduced new regulations requiring that marriages of children under age 17 be approved by a religious committee.
The action follows an uproar earlier this year over an 11-year-old Thai girl who married a 41-year-old Malaysian man, triggering calls in both countries for stronger laws against child marriage. The girl was reportedly sent back to Thailand from Malaysia and put under the care of Thai social welfare workers.
A senior member of the Central Islamic Council of Thailand, Wisut Binlateh, said Friday that Muslim children of any age in Thailand previously could get married with permission from their parents, but now children under age 17 must also seek approval from an Islamic committee which would consider whether the marriage is appropriate.
Wisut said the measure took effect Dec. 4, when the Sheikhul Islam, the senior Thai Muslim leader, signed his approval.
Human rights activist Angkhana Neelaphaijit said the regulation does not carry the weight of law, and holds no punishment for those who fail to abide by it.
Islamic law is observed for Muslims in Thailand’s four southernmost provinces for family matters and inheritance, but does not set a minimum age for marriage. Three of the four provinces are the only ones with Muslim majorities in the Buddhist-dominated country, while the fourth has a substantial Muslim community.
According to Thai law, which applies to the rest of the country, the minimum legal age for marriage is 17, though courts may allow the marriage of younger individuals if there is an appropriate reason. The reasons, however, are not defined in the law.
Angkhana said the new measure by Thailand’s Islamic leaders is a step in the right direction, but requires further work to protect people’s rights.
“It is a good thing that the Sheikhul Islam Office has introduced this measure, but we have to also try to reach an understanding with the religious leaders that if there are violators, what can we do to punish them,” she said.
Angkhana also said because Thailand’s four southern provinces use Islamic law for family matters, a legal loophole has allowed a surge in Malaysian men coming to southern Thailand for second or third marriages, because there is little oversight compared to what they face at home.
“The problem is in Malaysia, if a man wants to have a second or third wife, he needs to ask permission from a court. But in Thailand, there is no such law regulating this or also anyone checking whether a man is wealthy enough to care for a family,” she said.


In Texas, Trump and Modi vow relentless fight on extremists

Updated 23 September 2019

In Texas, Trump and Modi vow relentless fight on extremists

  • Taking the flavor of one of Trump’s own boisterous rallies, Modi later asked the crowd to give a standing ovation to Trump for his stance

HOUSTON: US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday declared themselves united in a relentless fight against “terrorism,” vowing a close, personal alliance in front of tens of thousands of Indian-Americans.

The two leaders, like-minded nationalists fond of fiery rallies and skeptical of traditional media, heaped praise on each other in an unusual joint appearance inside a football stadium in Houston.

To the bhangra beats of four drummers in saffron turbans, Trump in his dark suit and Modi in a yellow kurta and vest made a grand entrance with arms clenched together to ecstatic cheers from a crowd estimated by organizers at 50,000.

Trump won his biggest applause when he told the crowd, many wearing the saffron of India’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, “We are committed to protecting innocent civilians from the threat of radical Islamic terrorism.”

Taking the flavor of one of Trump’s own boisterous rallies, Modi later asked the crowd to give a standing ovation to Trump for his stance.

Protesters gathered outside of the NRG Stadium with placards and shirts that said, “Free Kashmir” and accused Modi of violating religious freedom — a cause frequently evoked by the Trump administration.

The event — dubbed, with a Texan twang, “Howdy, Modi!” — was billed as the largest gathering ever by a foreign leader other than the pope in the US.

Hoping to ensure that it remains bipartisan, organizers also invited prominent Democrats.

Presidential contender Bernie Sanders, who did not attend, was more direct, saying that Trump showed a “deafening silence” on the clampdown in Kashmir.

“I know that when a president stays silent in the face of religious persecution, repression and brutality, the dangerous message this sends to authoritarian leaders around the world is, ‘Go ahead, you can get away with it,’” Sanders wrote in the Houston Chronicle.

Speaking of his record as if on the campaign trail, Trump made no mention of many Indians’ concerns over US visa policy — but highlighted his efforts to turn back undocumented immigrants from Central America.

Hardly known for his celebrations of ethnic diversity, Trump said to Indian-Americans, “We love you.”

“You enrich our culture, you uphold our values, you uplift our communities and you are truly proud to be American — and we are proud to have you as Americans,” he said.

Sporting a vest in yellow embroidery from Modi’s home state of Gujarat as well as a cap in the Indian tricolor, Bhavin Parikh of Sacramento, California said he wanted to show support for Modi and called the event “historic” due to Trump’s presence.

But he demurred on whether the gathering indicated backing Trump.

“It is not a question of Democrat or Republican. It’s the American president supporting the Indian prime minister,” he said.