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Legal help for Muslim leaders

Legal help for Muslim leaders

By Karin Derkley

Muslim leaders are being trained as first responders to help their communities deal with legal problems. When a businesswoman from the Somalian community told her imam she’d received a breach notice from the landlord of her commercial premises, he realised he had no idea how to help her. As community leaders, Muslim imams don’t just deal with religious matters. They are also the first port of call when things go wrong. It’s not so different from the role of a Catholic priest or a Jewish rabbi, says Victoria University’s Sir Zelman Cowen Centre program coordinator and lecturer Nadav Prawer. “The difference is that in well-established Christian and Jewish communities, there’s likely to be a lawyer on hand somewhere nearby who can help give advice on those kinds of matters,” says Mr Prawer. Even if there’s not, the priest or rabbi generally has a basic understanding of where to at least start looking for help. However, Muslim communities are still so new in Australia that their understanding of the legal system here can be scant. “There’s still not a lot of knowledge out in the Muslim community about the Australian legal system,” says Muslim Legal Network president Jazeer Nijamudeen. The Muslim Legal Network provides a referral service to legal services and lawyers for the Muslim community. But gaining a basic grasp of the legal system is the first step for people to know where to even start, Mr Nijamudeen says.

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