A judge in Texas has ordered a Muslim woman seeking a divorce from her husband to appear in a tribunal governed by Sharia law.
Collin County District Judge Andrea Thompson ruled in March that Mariam Ayad must forego the justice system’s legal paths for divorce and instead submit to mediation under a Fiqh panel governed by a Muslim group based in Saudi Arabia, according to the Washington Examiner.
The judge based her decision on the fact that Ayad signed a prenuptial agreement with her husband, Ayad Hashim Latif, stating she would permit her marriage — if necessary — to be arbitrated by Sharia.
Court documents, however, suggest Ayad didn’t know what she was signing when she endorsed the prenuptial agreement. She said she believed she was signing duplicate copies of her marriage acknowledgment form.
Ayad’s legal complaint argues that the Islamic tribunal violates her rights as defined by the U.S. Constitution as well as the Texas Constitution, pointing out that “a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s.”
“The application of Islamic law means that the weight and credibility of the evidence provided by [the] wife will be half of that of any male who testifies or provides evidence, including [the] husband,” the document states. “Thus, [the] wife will neither be meaningfully heard nor afforded a meaningful opportunity to present evidence material to the controversy.”
Despite Ayad’s concerns, Thompson said the agreement was legally binding.
A new ruling issued in June reaffirmed the judge’s earlier decision, ordering her case to fall under the jurisdiction of the Islamic Association of North Texas, one of the largest Islamic groups in the Lone Star state.
Ayad’s attorney has taken the matter to the Texas appeals court, arguing the terms of the prenuptial agreement are “unconscionable,” noting Ayad’s coerced signature “was derived by fraud and duress.”
The agreement, the lawyer said, “is invalid and unenforceable.”