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UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: She now pronounces Muslims man and wife

November 14, 2008 |  7:13 am

Emirates

In what is being described as a “breakthrough” for women in the conservative Persian Gulf, judicial authorities in the United Arab Emirates this week appointed a woman to conduct Muslim marriages for the first time in the region, where women are often relegated to a secondary role in society.

Fatima Saeed Obeid al-Awani, 33, a married mother of two boys, was named on Thursday as the UAE’s first woman maazoun — a judicial official, much like a notary — who presides over wedding ceremonies and stamps marriage and divorce certificates, according to the emirate’s official news agency, WAM.

Awani is the second woman in the Muslim world to conduct marriages after a female lawyer was appointed to the same post in Egypt in February. The Egyptian move ruffled, then, a lot of feathers in the Arab region with many contesting the decision as contrary to the laws of Islam.

On the website of the Arab satellite TV channel, Al-Arabiya, the news stirred discussions among Arab readers with comments divided between those for and those against women occupying positions in Islamic courts.

One commentator said, “women should raise kids and manage households.”

Another commentator said that this was a step toward “giving women their rights and their pivotal place in development.”

The UAE’s official news agency said the move carried by Abu Dhabi’s judicial department was aimed at "bolstering the role of women in society ... in line with Emirati laws and without violating Shariaa," or Islamic law.

This follows efforts by authorities in the UAE to appoint more women in the judiciary. The UAE has two female public prosecutors and a female judge, which is not at all common in the Persian Gulf.

Since February, the number of female ministers in the UAE was raised to four. 

-- Raed Rafei in Beirut

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Photo: Two women arrive at a supermarket for daily shopping in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Credit: Kamran Jebreil / Associated Press

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