A woman plans to challenge Ohio’s first court ruling involving a traditional Muslim marriage agreement in a case that could set a precedent about how such religious contracts are handled in the state.
The ruling says Mohammed Zawahiri does not have to pay his former wife, Raghad Alwattar, the $25,000 he promised as part of a Muslim pre-marriage agreement – called a mahr – because the payment is part of a religious pact, not a legal contract. Alwattar plans to appeal, her lawyer said.
The decision was a departure from rulings in other U.S. states, which have enforced such contracts, similar to dowries, by citing precedents set by civil rulings that enforced Orthodox Jewish marriage contracts.
The ruling sets a dangerous precedent for Muslim women because the contract serves as a protection and safeguard for women who often marry young and do not earn salaries, Alwattar’s attorney, Noure Alo, said Wednesday. After a divorce, it can be difficult for a Muslim woman to marry again, he said.
The issue is especially pertinent as Muslim couples increasingly turn to the secular court system for disputes that traditionally would have been resolved by a religious leader, said Jennifer Nimer, legal director for Council on American-Islamic Relations Ohio.
Alwattar, 21, said the mahr should be considered a prenuptial agreement under Ohio law. (MORE)