03/23/2009, 00.00
NEPAL
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Nepali Muslims want constitution to incorporate Sharia-based personal law

by Kalpit Parajuli
The Nepal Muslim Sangh wants the country’s Muslim community to be recognised as a distinct entity. Muslim leaders tell government and parties that Muslims are not just a “vote bank”, demand specific steps in favour of Muslims.
Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Nepal’s new constitution should recognise Islam. The Nepal Muslim Sangh, a federation of Nepali Muslim communities, made the request to the Nepali government in a six-point list submitted on Saturday to the Constituent Assembly and the parties represented in it.

The federation wants the country’s Maoist government to acknowledge that Nepali Muslims have a separate identity, and that this warrants the creation of a separate Islamic Affairs Commission, an Islamic School (Madrassah) Board, a Hajj Committee (for annual pilgrimages to Makkah) and the introduction of Islamic personal law based on Sharia for Muslims.

Nepal Muslim Sangh Chairman Abdul Sattar said that Muslims should not be exploited as a mere “vote bank”.

Neither the government, nor political parties have paid attention to Muslim concerns; no effort has been made “to launch any concrete programmes targeting the Muslim community,” he said.

Muslims, who number just over 800,000 or about 3.5 per cent out of a mostly Hindu population of 26 million, constitute Nepal’s second largest religious minority after Buddhists.

The government has classified them as Madeshi, or natives of the southern part of the country, along with indigenous groups in the Tarai region

On 15 March the Maoist government signed an agreement with representatives of the Muslim community granting them political, social and cultural rights as a way to stave off possible separatist tendencies.

The agreement does not mention however the inclusion in the constitution of Sharia-based personal law as demanded by the Nepal Muslim Sangh.

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