Israel: Woman appointed Sharia judge for first time

A Palestinian-Israeli woman has been appointed to serve as a judge in a Sharia religious court for the first time in the history of the state of Israel.

Israel’s Judicial Appointments Committee announced on Tuesday that Hana Mansour-Khatib – a lawyer specialising in family law from the northern town of Tamra – had won a unanimous internal vote for the office.

Mansour-Khatib even won the backing of members of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party. The move has been hailed as historic by Israeli officials.

Some critics have dismissed it as a publicity stunt, also drawn references to the continued human rights abuses suffered by Palestinian Muslims living under Israeli occupation.

In the Jewish state, family law – including legislation governing divorce, marriage, endowments – is governed by religious courts, with separate systems existing for different religious denominations.

Mansour-Khatib’s appointment marks the first time a woman has been appointed to any religious court in Israel, noted AFP. No woman has ever served as a judge in a Jewish, or Druze court.

Israeli daily Haaretz reported that the Judicial Appointments Committee had not decided which of the nine Sharia courts in Israel Mansour-Khatib will be appointed to.

The female lawyer is expected to be sworn in by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in the coming weeks.

It remains rare for women to be appointed as judges, or qadis, to Sharia courts – a controversial issue in Islamic debate.

Two women currently serve as judges in Sharia courts in the Palestinian Authority.

Elsewhere state sponsored initiatives in countries including Kenya, Malaysia, and India in 2016 lead to the appointment of a small number of female Sharia judges.