11/08/2004, 00.00
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No to opulent weddings

by Qaiser Felix
Supreme Court bans banquets and opulence at weddings. The Catholic Church backs the law and urges people to save for their children's education.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Pakistan's Supreme Court has decided to ban meals and other food from wedding ceremonies. In a 23-page decision, the judges of the highest tribunal ruled that "clubs, hotels, restaurants, wedding halls, community centres or any other place [could serve] only hot and cold (soft) drinks". Quoting the Quran and referring to the recommendations of Council of Islamic Ideology, they said that fancy and extravagant banquets were prohibited in Islam.

In their ruling, the judges deplored the custom of displaying dowry before guests and held that open demands for them had crushed the middle and poor segments of society.

"Such evils of extravagance and ostentatious displays of wealth are unacceptable," Chief Justice Nazim Hussain Siddiqui observed. "They are against all norms and values known to a civil society and therefore must stop".
The judgment went on to state: "This is quite in line with Islamic teachings, which lays great emphasis on a simple way of life," adding that "it is the duty of the state to take steps to encourage the celebration of marriages in simple and informal ways".

The Court's decision throws out the 2003 Punjab Marriage Function Act and upholds the 2000 Marriages Ordinance, which had imposed a comprehensive ban on serving meals at weddings.
The Pakistan Catholic Bishops' Conference is in favour of the Court's decision. For the bishops, instead of fancy weddings, families should save and invest in their children's education. "In this age of high cost of living," they write, "the faithful [must] adopt a more simple celebration, avoiding useless pomp and show. The different expenditures in a marriage and large dowries place a heavy burden on families [who end up] going into debt and are unable to pay for the education of their children".

Restaurant owners and caterers immediately protested against the Court ban, claiming that it "would destroy their business".

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