The Star, Tuesday April 8, 2008
PUTRAJAYA: All Syariah court judges will soon have at least a Masters degree and be sent for special courses in Egypt and Britain to expand their knowledge, experience and exposure, particularly in handling increasingly complicated cases due to modernisation and development.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said 10 of the 200-odd Syariah judges were already going for weekend courses at the Islamic International University for various Masters programme while some were now in Egypt and the Britain.
“This effort is crucial due to the complexity of cases judges have to deal with. I believe there is nothing like experience and exposure to help them in their work,” Ahmad Zahid told newsmen after attending a two-hour briefing at the Syariah Judiciary Department yesterday.
It was his first visit to the department after taking office as the minister in charge of religious affairs.
He said cases handled by Syariah courts were no longer just about settling divorces, determining the quantum for child support or dealing with religious offences.
Division of property due to divorce, he added, was not as simple nor as clear cut as before while apostasy and renouncing Islam cases were complex.
“If in those days divorce meant giving weapons to the man and the cutlery to the wife, today it is not just about who takes the house or land, but also division of shares, stocks and bonds, and also EPF savings.
“Judges also have to deal with issues outside Syariah law such as financial laws,” he said.
As for cases involving apostates and Muslims renouncing the religion, Ahmad Zahid said he would talk on the issue after having a discussion with experts and ulama on the matter, but admitted that such cases were also a “problem for Syariah judges”.
He said the number of cases being solved in Syariah courts were impressive, with 90% of the cases heard, tried and solved within 12 months after being registered, adding that the Government would be spending RM36mil to set up Syariah court complexes in Kelantan, Penang and Sabah.