Sharia law in Greece: Blending European values with Islamic tradition

The Hellenic Republic is the sole EU Member State which provides for the application of Sharia law in its territory for more than a century. A recent amendment is granting Greek Moslems the right to opt-out, and resort to domestic civil law. At the same time, the new law respects the right to opt-in for the application of Sharia law, upon the condition of mutual agreement between the parties.

 

Law 4511/2018 was enacted on January 15. It contains only one article (the second simply declares that the law will be in force upon publication in the State Gazette), which amends the previous status of Sharia courts in Greece. A new Paragraph (4) is added to Art. 5 Law 1920/1991. By virtue of the new provision, the jurisdiction of the Mufti becomes the exception, whereas (until today) it was the rule for Greek Moslems living in the region of (Western) Thrace. The Mufti has jurisdiction for a vast number of family and succession matters, which are listed under Article 5.2 Law 1920/1991. A prerequisite is that the parties have submitted the above matters to Sharia law.

The new law grants the right to each party to seek Justice before domestic courts, and in accordance with Greek substantive and procedural law. The Mufti may exercise jurisdiction only if both parties file an application for this cause. Once the case is submitted to the Mufti, the jurisdiction of national courts is irrevocably excluded.

In addition, the new law paves the path for a more structured procedure before the Mufti: A drafting Committee will be authorized to prepare a decree, which will shape (for the first time) the Rules and Regulations of the Mufti ‘courts’. Signs of a formalized process are already clearly visible in the new law (Article 4.b).

Inheritance matters are also regulated by the new legislation: In principle they are subjected to Greek law, unless the testator solemnly states before a notary public his wish to submit succession matters to Sharia law. A parallel application of Greek and Sharia law is not permitted. However, revocation of the testator’s declaration is allowed, pursuant to Greek succession law provisions embedded in the Civil Code.

The new law has certainly conflict of laws ramifications too, most notably in light of the recent Sahyouni case of the CJEU. In this respect it is important to underline that all decisions rendered by the Mufti are passing through a hybrid process of domestic exequatur, which is rudimentarily regulated under Article 5.3 Law 1920/1991. Failure to submit the Mufti decisions to domestic courts’ scrutiny, deprives them of res iudicata and enforceability. Hence, EU Member States courts, whenever confronted with a request to recognize or enforce Mufti decisions within their jurisdiction, will always have to examine whether a Greek court has granted full faith and credit to the Mufti’s ruling.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • DM January 25, 2018, 8:23 am

    Right now we have it. A 21st century ‘European’ country accommodating law from the middle ages where women in particular are pressured into domestic circumstances that is not in their interest, a complete subservience to a male dominated code. Now where will those women flee to where can they find respite from domestic abuse. The Greek civil law first ignored the negative influence of Sharia Law, now they seek to accommodate it if both parties agree. Please, which century do Greek legislatures come from? How do they know if pressure has been exerted. What threats have been made to the woman often by her own family, if she doesn’t acquiesce to the pressures to conform. What precise measures will the Greek authorities put in place to protect such women and their children. How will they reach out to these women.

  • Mike January 26, 2018, 7:57 am

    DM,

    do you mean the Greeks should take example from the Brits and treat women as at the President Club at the Dorchester Hotel?

  • Gilles January 26, 2018, 2:29 pm

    Very interesting post. May I ask whether Greek legislation simply refers to ‘Sharia law’, or is more specific (one particular school of Suni islam, for instance) ?

  • Apostolos Anthimos January 26, 2018, 3:45 pm

    TXS Gilles. Greek legislation refers to the ‘Sacred Moslem Law’; hence, no distinctions. You can find more info on the following publication: Konstantinos Tsitselikis, Old and New Islam in Greece: From Historical Minorities to Immigrant Newcomers (Studies in International Minority and Group Rights), Brill/Nijhoff, 2012

  • Ted Folkman January 29, 2018, 1:18 pm

    Interesting post, Apostolos! I am interested in what you think about the implications of the new law for the Molla Sali case. Does the opt-in feature of the new law solve the issue there?

  • Apostolos Anthimos January 31, 2018, 8:56 am

    TXS Ted. I wouldn’t like to predict the ruling of the ECHR; however, by reading the explanatory report and the opinion of the Scientific Committee of the Hellenic Parliament, it becomes clear that the new law was drafted in order to avoid a negative result. Full abolition of Sharia law was considered as a politically premature step.
    NOTA BENE: For the Molla Sali case pending before the ECHR, see https://lettersblogatory.com/2017/12/18/case-to-watch-molla-sali-v-greece.