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Page last updated at 15:05 GMT, Monday, 10 May 2010 16:05 UK

Mali imam living in fear after backing women's rights

Muslim protesters in Mali
Thousands protested when the new law was introduced in 2009

An imam in Mali is living in fear after backing a new family law which no longer obliges wives to obey their husbands, angering Muslim groups.

He has received threatening phone calls and local Muslim leaders have tried to dismiss him.

The new law is currently being given a second reading in parliament after Mali's president refused to sign it because of the Muslim protests.

More than 90% of Mali's population is Muslim.

In April, the imam of Kati, 15km (9 miles) north-west of the capital, Bamako, wrote a letter to Mali's High Islamic Council stating he saw nothing in the new family law which infringed the country's social values, much less Islam, the BBC's Martin Vogl in Mali says.

The High Islamic Council has said imams can only be dismissed by their congregation and it is unclear what weight the decision by local Muslim leaders to sack the imam will have, our reporter explains.

But the incident has highlighted the intense feelings among Muslims towards the new family law.

Its most contentious provisions give more rights to women.

For example, under the law husbands and wives owe each other loyalty and protection rather than obedience, women get greater inheritance rights and the minimum age for girls to marry in most circumstances is raised to 18.

When the law was introduced in August 2009, the parliament building was attacked and it was difficult to find anyone to defend the law in public, our reporter says.

Mali's President Amadou Toumani Toure said he was sending the law back to parliament for the sake of national unity.



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