A Texas judge ordered that a Muslim woman seeking a divorce appear before a tribunal governed by Sharia, a move that her lawyers said was unconstitutional.
In March, Collin County District Judge Andrea Thompson ordered that Mariam Ayad, a woman attempting to divorce her husband, Ayad Hashim Latif, forgo the usual legal paths and instead submit to arbitration under a Fiqh panel, governed by a traditional Muslim group based in Saudi Arabia. Thompson’s reasoning rested on a prenuptial agreement between the two in which Ayad agreed to allow her marriage to be arbitrated according to Sharia.
Ayad said that when she signed the document, she did not realize that she was submitting to Sharia, according to court documents. Instead, she said she thought she was signing two copies of a marriage acknowledgment form. Under Sharia, a woman’s testimony in divorce proceedings is worth half of a man’s, making her plea to be removed from that agreement especially urgent, her attorneys wrote.
Ayad argued that she should be released from the agreement because she did not sign it voluntarily and because the agreement itself violates the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment. Under the agreement, her husband has the sole right to seek or deny a divorce and Ayad “will not have a meaningful right to be heard,” her attorneys wrote.
Thompson, however, ruled in March that the agreement was binding. A revised order in June reaffirmed that decision, but it removed explicit references to the Fiqh panel, according to court documents. Under the order, Ayad’s divorce case falls under the jurisdiction of the Islamic Association of North Texas, one of the largest Muslim groups in the state.
Thompson did not respond to a request for comment.
Ayad’s attorneys took the case to a Texas appeals court, arguing that the Sharia proceedings are in direct conflict with United States divorce law. The agreement itself, they added, is “unconscionable” and in opposition to Texas law as well.
Judge Thompson is a Republican Judge endorsed by Collin County Conservative Groups which is a very conservative county. She is also up for re-election.
Andrea Thompson (Republican Party) is a judge of the Texas 416th District Court. Her current term ends on December 31, 2024.
Thompson earned her B.S. from Texas A&M University in 1995. She later received her J.D. from the South Texas College of Law in 1998. Thompson was the district clerk for Collin County from 2011 to 2015. She previously owned The Stroh Law Firm from 2003 to 2011.
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