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(RNS) — Six years ago, an American filmmaker named Erika Cohn was at a meeting at the Palestinian Authority’s Ramallah headquarters, listening to a noisy discussion about raising the Palestinian territories’ legal marriage age and preventing domestic violence, when Kholoud Al-Faqih walked in.
Immediately, Cohn told Religion News Service, the air in the room seemed to change. “She had this really incredible presence that radiated throughout the room,” Cohn recalled.
Meeting - Cohn - Al-Faqih - Judge - Shariah
After the meeting ended, Cohn introduced herself to Al-Faqih and discovered she was a judge in the Shariah court of Ramallah – the first female Shariah judge in the Palestinian territories, if not the entire Middle East.
When Cohn mentioned to Al-Faqih that she was a filmmaker, the judge smiled.
Someone - Story - Women - Girls - World
“I’ve been waiting for someone to come along and tell my story to other women and girls around the world,” she said.
Cohn’s documentary “The Judge,” which aired this week as part of PBS’ Independent Lens documentary series and is streaming online until Dec. 2, does just that, tracing Al-Faqih’s journey in leading a quiet social revolution.
Territories - Courts - Women - Judges - Criminal
In the Palestinian territories, the civil courts, where women have been judges since the 1970s, hear criminal, administrative and civil law cases. But the religious courts, where family cases are heard, have traditionally been headed by male magistrates and religious scholars.
An accomplished lawyer who had spent years helping battered women, Al-Faqih realized that a better avenue for change would be working as a judge to improve the lives of women facing domestic violence or family struggles.
Al-Faqih - Idea - Leaders - Palestinian - Court
When Al-Faqih first broached the idea with the leaders of the Palestinian religious court system, “I laughed and thought it was a joke,” Sheikh Tayseer al-Tamimi, the former chief justice of the West Bank’s Shariah court system, says in the film.
But Al-Faqih had done her homework, and she convinced him that the Hanafi...
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