India's Muslim leaders to discuss female inheritance; reject birth control talks

Posted: Friday, October 15, 2004

LUCKNOW, India (AP) Islamic leaders in India have proposed changing a law so that Muslim women can inherit property, but said promoting birth control would be ''not Islamic.''

Imams and clerics who determine personal law for India's 140 million Muslims governing matters relating to marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption and child custody will consider several proposed legal changes at the All India Muslim Personal Law Board meeting in the southern Indian city of Calicut from Dec. 24-26.

Part of the agenda for the meeting was finalized at a recent gathering.

Under the current law, when a Muslim woman marries, she loses all rights to inherit a portion of her father's land. The proposal before the law board would allow a woman to collect the inheritance along with her brothers.

Also to be discussed is a proposal that would strengthen women's marriage rights, board secretary Abdul R. Qureshi said. Currently, a Muslim man can easily divorce his wife, take their children and leave her with nothing.

Members of the law board, however, said they would not discuss a proposal by Vice Chairman Syed Kalbe Sadiq to consider family planning to help Muslim families among India's poorest citizens better feed and educate their children.

''Family planning is not Islamic,'' said Rabe Hasan Nadvi, the board chairman.

Birth control is a sensitive issue among Muslims in India because Hindu nationalists have often criticized the religious minority for its high birth rate.

Sadiq said he would not push for the reform, but he noted in his Shiite branch of Islam a minority of India's Muslims family planning is not taboo.

''Most of the Shia clerics have given a fatwa (religious edict) in favor of family planning,'' Sadiq said.

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