‘The Judge’ Documentary Explores Middle East’s First Female Jurist In Sharia Law Courts

By Kenneth Turan
Los Angeles Times

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) “The Judge” is a new documentary which features Kholoud Al-Faqih, a judge in a Palestinian sharia court in the West Bank. Al-Faqih was appointed the first woman to hold this position in the Middle East in the more than a thousand years these courts have been in existence.

Los Angeles Times

“The Judge” is not the eagerly anticipated documentary on Supreme Court luminary Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That film, “RBG,” is coming soon, but in the interim viewers would be wise to take in this story of another female jurist who is just about as impressive.

That would be Kholoud Al-Faqih, a judge in a Palestinian sharia or religious court in the West Bank. That may not sound like a big deal until you realize that when appointed she was the first woman to hold this position in the Middle East in the more than a thousand years these courts have been in existence.

Given that, it’s no surprise to discover in Erika Cohn’s fascinating documentary that the confident Al-Faqih is an altogether remarkable person, a firebrand whose formidable knowledge of sharia helped get her appointed in the first place.

Al-Faqih began her professional career as a lawyer defending abused women. Because sharia courts are routinely involved with issues of women and family, she didn’t understand why there were no female judges.

Al-Faqih’s research revealed that that lack was caused only by custom and convention, not the tenets of the Hanafi school of Islamic thought followed in Palestine.

When she so informed Chief Justice Sheikh Tayseer Al-Tamimi, he was so aghast that “tradition overrides actual sharia law” that he appointed her in 2009. Her goal, she does not hesitate to say, was to “throw a rock and stir these stagnant waters.”

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