South Africa accredits 100 imams as marriage officers

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South African muslims attempt to spot the new moon that would mark the end of the fasting month of Ramadan and the starting of the Eid al Fitr celebrations on September 9, 2010 ahead of the evening prayer on the Sea Point promenade in Cape Town, South Africa. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims observe a strict fast and participate in pious activities such as charitable giving and peace-making. It is a time of intense spiritual renewal for those who observe it. At the end of Ramadan, Muslims throughout the world observe a joyous three-day celebration called Eid al-Fitr (the Festival of Fast-Breaking). Eid al-Fitr falls on the first day of Shawwal, the month which follows Ramadan in the Islamic calendar. It is a time to give in charity to those in need, and celebrate with family and friends the completion of a month of blessings and joy.   AFP PHOTO/ GIANLUIGI GUERCIA
South African Muslims, which make up 2 percent of the population, now have over 100 imams accredited as marriage officers. AFP Photo

CAPE TOWN, April 30, 2014 (AFP) – South Africa yesterday accredited over 100 imams as marriage officers, allowing the Muslim clerics to officiate at fully recognised weddings for the first time.

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe hailed “a new chapter in the story of the Muslim community in South Africa”.

“This will enable the legal official recognition of the unions of Muslim couples,” he said at a ceremony in Cape Town.

Imams had previously presided over weddings that were not fully recognised in civil law.

Motlanthe said Muslim couples would now have the “protective instruments” of the secular state, while maintaining “Qur’anic values”.

Cape Town-based legal aid group, the Women’s Legal Centre, welcomed the registration of the clergy as a “step in the right direction”.

But a grouping of over 200 Muslim organisations in southern Africa, the Islamic Unity Convention claimed the broader Muslim community in the country was not consulted on the government’s decision to certify the Imams.

“It is suspiciously expedient that the government has also taken this step to apparently recognise Muslim marriages a week before an election, when it had dragged its feet on the issue for the past 20 years,” said the groups’ spokeswoman Magboeba Davids.

Muslims in South Africa account for just under 2 percent of the 52.9 million population.

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