The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
I just learned about the case from the invaluable Religion Clause blog (Prof. Howard Friedman), but the best source I could find was an March 3 WorldCrunch adaptation of a Le Monde story. Here's an excerpt:
When her husband died in March 2008, [Shatitzeh] Molla Sali inherited everything through his will, a Greek document registered at a notary's office. But her in-laws immediately challenged the bequest with the local mufti—a Muslim jurist and theologian—in the name of Sharia law, which forbids Muslims to write wills.
Molla Sali took the matter to a civil court and won. But in a decision published in October 2013, the Greek Supreme Court established that matters of inheritance among the Muslim minority must be resolved by the mufti, following Islamic laws.
The reason for the persistence of Sharia law in a traditionally Christian country stems from the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne between Greece and Turkey, which aimed in part at protecting the Greek minority in Turkey and vice versa; two clauses provide,
The Turkish Government undertakes to take, as regards non-Moslem minorities, in so far as concerns their family law or personal status, measures permitting the settlement of these questions in accordance with the customs of those minorities….
The rights conferred by the provisions of the present Section on the non-Moslem minorities of Turkey will be similarly conferred by Greece on the Moslem minority in her territory.
But Sali's lawyer, is quoted as saying,
[T]he Lausanne Treaty does not mention Sharia law or muftis. It is the Greek state that interpreted things this way. In 1923, Turkish society in Ataturk's time was very progressive and secular. So Greece, which was a very conservative, Orthodox state, decided that reinforcing Islamic laws could help reduce Kemalist influence on the Turkish-speaking community in Thrace.
Molla Sali has appealed the decision to the European Court of Human Rights, and it will be interesting to see what the court decides.