1,000 Turned Up For Event

Pharmacist Syed Azmi Alhabshi, organizer of the “I Want To Touch A Dog” event, was pleasantly surprised when 1,000 people turned up at the event on Sunday morning.  He had expected only 60.  And the majority of those who turned up were Muslims. This has now turned out to be one of the largest impromptu events organized in just three weeks.

Touching Dogs

One participant, Siti Sakinah Meor Omar Baki, brought her 4 children to Central Park in Bandar Utama, Selangor so they and she can overcome their fear of dogs. Like many Muslims, Siti Sakinah Meor Omar Baki was brought up thinking touching dogs is haram.  Speaking at the “I Want To Touch A Dog” event, Siti Sakinah Meor Omar Baki said: “It is also to show that touching a dog is not haram. People are worried about touching the dogs more as it’s a sin instead of worrying about the biggest sins”.  Siti Sakinah Meor Omar Baki was a former religious teacher.

Siti Sakinah Meor Omar Baki said that her ustaz husband gave her permission to attend this “I Want To Touch A Dog” event.  Describing that moment, Siti Sakinah Meor Omar Baki said: “I wanted to jump for joy when he said ‘yes’ and I told my children they had to go. And all of them came today with me to overcome their fear and to learn that dogs are also creatures created by Allah that need love and care. I am still scared of big dogs so I am touching the small ones first”.

22 year old Nik Farhana Nik Othman said: “I am curious, that is why I am here. I touched a few. I never had a chance like this before. I grew up in Kota Baru and I study at the International Islamic University Malaysia. My parents don’t know that I am here but my friends are very supportive”.

23-year old housefwife Fatimah came dressed in a full black veil with only her eyes visible.  she said: “I came here to learn more about interacting with dogs, about ‘samak’ and ‘sertu’ cleansing. I’ve never done such a thing before”.

Children had a field day touching dogs.  7-year old Nur Aliyah Mohd Nasir who touched at least 12 dogs said: “I am very happy. I touched many dogs and carried them. My favourite is the Husky”.

Pet shop owner Aaron Choo, 25, said: “I’m very happy to see Muslims so eager to learn about and touch the dogs. I really do hope events such as these continue and I’m very happy to participate again”.

Overwhelming

Syed Azmi Alhabshi reacted this way when 1,000 people turned up: “We only expected 60 but this is way more than 60. This is overwhelming and I hope I provided enough water for the dogs and apologise for any shortcomings”.

Did Syed Azmi Alhabshi touch a dog?  He said: “I wanted to touch a Husky but I was so busy”.  But he did manage to touch a few dogs for the first time in his life. Dog owners had brought Husky, German Shepherd, Doberman, Golden Retriever and Poodle to the event. There was even a purebred sleek-haired Afghan hound.

33-year old Ustaz Mohd Iqbal Parjin,  a religious teacher and Masters student at UTM’s Centre for Advanced Studies on Islam, Science and Civilisation (Casis) was on hand to give talks on touching dogs in Islam.  He said: “Dogs are also god’s creatures. We need to overcome the mentality of seeing the animal as an offensive creature. Teach the young to love others but at the same time know the limit of touching one”. Ustaz Mohd Iqbal Parjin added: “This is the first time I’ve given a religious talk to many non-Muslims. I’ve always wanted to try giving dawah (preaching) through an urban approach. It’s a wonderful experience”.

Describing the event, Syed Azmi Alhabshi said: “This is just a baby step for us. I don’t know whether people will now understand not to throw stones at dogs but we want people to know that if they are not knowledgeable or are curious about things, they should just ask. If we ask nicely, people will respond. I didn’t expect to see so many Malays today. I didn’t expect many people to come in yellow or orange. I didn’t expect the kids. Having the kids here is the best thing ever. We are doing this for them”.

Protest Galore After The Event

Datuk Othman Mustapha, director-general of the Department of Islamic Development of Malaysia (Jakim) said: “This event has never been held previously and is the first time being exposed to the community. We are Muslims and our religion has stated clearly the penalty regarding dogs. Jakim will investigate the matter immediately and any action will be referred to the existing provisions”.

Jakim has now issued a fatwa against touching dogs.  Citing Prophet Mohammad, the fatwa said the Prophet ordered that containers which had been used by dogs to drink from were to be washed, which showed that the tongue, saliva and mouth of dogs were unclean. It then asked: “If the tongue and mouth are categorised as unclean, then of course the rest of its body is also unclean. Furthermore, dog saliva is created from its own sweat, and if the sweat from its mouth is unclean, then the sweat from the entire body is also unclean. Touching dogs or pigs without pressing reasons is haram. This act is called ‘Al-Tadhammukh Bi Al-Najasah’ and is defined as something which is forbidden to be done without need such as saving a hunting dog from a fire”.

The fatwa said that Muslims cannot keep dogs as pets, but it added: “However, Islam has given a few exemptions from this definition and allows dogs to be kept for hunting, herding of goats or in  orchards or fields. But to make dogs into tame companions which live under the same roof as their masters, Islam does not allow it and it is not a necessary situation which is exempted”.

Animal lover Iskander Lazarus said Muslims still have to “abide by the National Fatwa on keeping and rearing dogs, which at the moment is prohibited. These are laws of the religion for Muslims, so it has to be observed. This campaign was to educate people to care for dogs that are injured or hurt. It is a good awareness campaign that also tells Muslims on how to cleanse themselves after caring for a dog but it is not encouraging the Muslims to go against the Fatwa”.

Over at the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais), Selangor Mufti Datuk Seri Mohd Tamyes Abdul Wahid said: “No approval was given on our part to hold the ‘touch-a-dog’ program. The program was being held by an individual on his own initiative. We are not clear what was the justification. It is under the local government’s purview to approve, not the religious authorities”.

When told that Jakim is investigating this event, Datuk Seri Mohd Tamyes Abdul Wahid said: “Congratulation on their initiative. At least people will realise that it is not advisable (for Muslims) to touch dogs”.

PAS deputy youth chief Muhammad Khalil Abd Hadi, son of PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, said: “Instead of campaigning to touch a dog, it would be better if they campaigned about taking care of an orphan. The Prophet Muhammad once said that anyone who strokes the head of an orphan would receive plenty of reward for each strand of hair stroked. Instead of learning about how we should stroke a dog’s back, why not we learn how to cleanse our feet during wudhu (ablution) without taking off the layer of clothing”.

But former Perlis mufti Asri Zainul Abidin disagreed that it is haram to touch dogs, saying: “If it is haram to touch najis (filth), then it is also haram to touch one’s own excrement or that of children or others in your care when cleaning them. It would also be forbidden to do any work which involves najis, like cleaning toilets or dealing with blood or pus (both considered najis). The same can be said of veterinarians. So to rule that (touching dogs) is forbidden is a shallow ruling. It is thus not forbidden to touch dogs”.

Think About It

What message is being sent when 1,000 people turned up for this “I Want To Touch A Dog” event?  Siti Sakinah Meor Omar Baki said she was brought up in the belief that touching a dog is haram.  How many other Muslims are also in this position?  Why are protests coming out now after the event, when the organizer had talked about it 3 weeks earlier?  Did Jakim and the other protesters expect a very low turnout at this event and were caught by surprise?  So now, the final question.  Who is right?  Is it haram to touch a dog?

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Malaysia – Muslim Man Launches “I Want To Touch A Dog” Event

NHS Figures

National Health Services (NHS) figures show that there are 467 newly identified cases of women and girls requiring treatment after female genital mutilation in UK last month alone. This is in addition to the 1,279 already receiving treatment.

FGM

Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes removal of part or all of the female external genitalia or other harm done to female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is practiced in Africa, Asia and the Middle East and it is estimated that every year three million girls are at risk. Female genital mutilation is generally performed on young girls and is believed to ensure proper sexual behavior, preparing a girl for adulthood and marriage and to ensure purity. However, it is very dangerous and victims are at risk of severe bleeding, urination problems, infections, infertility and a higher probability of newborn deaths when giving birth.

Shocking Numbers

This is the first time NHS collected data on female genital mutilation and the numbers are shocking. Female genital mutilation has been illegal in UK since 1985, however the brutal act still continues and no one has yet been convicted in courts. While half of the cases occurred in London, the horrendous crime is happening all over England.

The collection of data shows a major breakthrough in efforts to end female genital mutilation in the UK. However, the figures are alarming and prove that it is still a very real health issue. John Cameron from the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) said that the data proves that it is vital that health professionals are trained to spot the signs of abuse to protect girls who have been affected and to provide them the necessary support they deserve. Policy advisor at the Royal College of Midwives Janet Fyle says that while the collection of data is groundbreaking and historic, it is “a wake-up call” that half of the reported cases occurred in London.

Think About It

It is shocking to think that such cruelty occurs in a country such as Britain, but what can be done to put an end to female genital mutilation in Britain if the only way that the authorities can find out about it is if there are complications or victims need treatment? And despite laws, how is it that no one has been convicted of the crime since 1985? What good is a law if it is not implemented? And how can Britain educate and raise awareness so that the public knows of the dangers associated with female genital mutilation?

Previous posts

UK – Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Remains A Huge Problem
Horrifying Numbers Of Victims Of Female Genital Mutilation Treated In London
UK And Other Countries Plan To Curb Female Genital Mutilation
Police In London Launch Teaching Resource About Female Genital Mutilation

Muslim Women Feeling More Accepted In Adelaide

Despite negative publicity towards Islam in the past few weeks, Muslim women in Adelaide are feeling more accepted than ever in the community.  Muslim convert Kathryn Jones said that the debate in Parliament had made the issue, which was once a taboo topic, part of mainstream conversation and has helped to break the stigma of female oppression associated with Islam.

Smile

Jones, 42, and mother of five, said that she was used to being stared at because of how she dressed. However, now people are starting to smile at her and to say hello. She thinks that it is their way of saying that they do not agree with what is being said in Parliament.

In addition, new facebook groups were being formed and were helping Muslim women feel more accepted. Jones says that these platforms have given rise to opportunities for Muslims and non-Muslims to converse.

Just a month ago, there were terror raids in the eastern states of Australia prompting widespread racial abuse towards Muslim women. Jones said that this abuse was worse than that experienced post-September 11.

Melbourne Less Accepting

Another Muslim lady May Jassem said that the abuse was more prominent in Melbourne and that Adelaide was a more accepting place. The 37-year-old moved to Adelaide from Iraq in 2011 and said that five months have past since she last felt uncomfortable. However, when she visited Melbourne for a holiday recently a man deliberately tipped his drink on her. She says that in Adelaide people are treating her very kindly, even inviting her into heir homes.

Flinders University professor Riaz Hassan says that there has been no systematic research on the treatment of Muslims in Australian society. However, general acceptance has grown and with time there will be more acceptance of religion and diversity.

Think About It

What has caused a shift in attitude towards Muslims in Adelaide? Why is there a shift despite negative comments and debate in Parliament? And why is it different in Melbourne? Is there anything that can be done in Melbourne to reach the same level of acceptance as in Adelaide?  And why don’t the people of Australia agree with what is being said in Parliament about banning burqas? And will there be more acceptance with time? Or must Australia take positive steps to achieve religious acceptance?

“Town Of Love”

Norwegian author Anne Otsby talked to the Jakarta Globe about her novel “Town of Love” during Ubud Writer’s Festival. Her novel tells the story of inter-generational prostitution among young girls of Nat caste in India.

While her novel is set in India, Anne Otsby says that many women all over the world are exposed to physical or sexual violence and that it is a global problem. Even countries such as Norway, that have strong laws on women’s protection, there is still rape and the culture of misogyny.

Indonesia

In Indonesia, a health survey conducted in 2012 shows that 12 percent of Indonesian women aged 15 to 24 say that their first sexual encounter was forced. This figure has dropped from 21 percent in 2007.

Anne Otsby believes that her book appeals to the Indonesian audience because the vulnerability of women is a global issue, it deals with painful subjects but at the same time it is a journey of strength, courage, hope and love. She says that human dignity unites us all regardless of country, circumstance and name.

Empowering Women

Anne Otsb’’s story features girls who sell their bodies to feed their families. She draws upon long series of live interviews and then fictionalizes her characters. Her novel not only highlights women who are treated unfairly because of their gender, but also the social issues where women are positioned as the most vulnerable in society.  Anne Otsby believes that empowering women with financial independence would end this vulnerability. She tells of how she has met women who say that they would stop working as sex workers if they had jobs which earned as much, but without that opportunity, they feel like they have no choice but to continue in order to feed their families.

Think About It

How can we help empower women all over the world with financial independence so that they will not be victims of abuse? But are they really victims? Or are they merely picky and greedy, making a deliberate decision to be a sex worker because they can earn easy money? Surely there are other women in other parts of the world who, while may not be in poverty, but make a choice to work hard for a lesser wage than they could earn if they worked as prostitutes as well? Are these women in India really as helpless as they make out to be?

Helping People Overcome Fear Of Dogs

In the absence of any last minute hiccups, an unusual event will take place in Malaysia this morning, from 8 am to 10 am at the Central Park in Bandar Utama.  Organized by Syed Azmi Alhabshi, the event is called “I Want To Touch A Dog”, and is catered to both Muslims and non-Muslims who have an inherent fear of dogs. And to minimize the chance of last minute hiccups, Syed Azmi Alhabshi has obtained approval from both the police and the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) to hold the event.

“Not To Promote Dog Adoption”

Lest anyone misunderstands it, this is not the usual run of the mill dog show to promote dog adoption.  Syed Azmi Alhabshi explains: “The objective is to overcome one’s fear of dogs, to understand them better and also to practise ‘sertu’. It is not to promote dog adoption”.

Syed Azmi Alhabshi added: “I live in (Taman Tun Dr Ismail) a Malay neighbourhood. I have no Chinese neighbours so there are no pet dogs around. I have seen cases of people running away at the sight of a dog, or throw stones at it. It broke my heart… How do people feel when they see an animal ill-treated, abused or knocked over?”

Deciding to do something about it, Syed Azmi Alhabshi took to Facebook to say that he wanted to touch a dog but was afraid.  That’s when he discovered that there are many people in the same boat with him on this.  Syed Azmi Alhabshi said: “I decided that the best way to learn about dogs is to learn from people who love them.  Since there are so many of us, I thought why don’t we have a public event, touch dogs and then perform ‘sertu’ together?”

Commenting on the permission granted by the police and Mais, Syed Azmi Alhabshi said they seemed to understand his explanation that it was aimed at helping people overcome their fear of dogs.

Sertu

Interestingly, several Muslim Facebook users commented that the Quran never forbade Muslims from touching dogs, and that doing so is not a sin.  Others explained that “sertu” is the cleansing ritual if a Muslim touches a dog.

One website said: “Muslim scholars/jurists have different opinions with regard to the ruling that dogs are considered impure (najis). According to the majority of scholars from the Shafi’i mazhab (school of thought), dogs fall in the category of najis mughallazah (major impurity). Any area that comes into contact with the saliva or excrement (urine or stool) has to be cleansed once with water that is mixed with earth (soil) and then followed by clean water 6 times. This method is referred to as sertu. Despite that, touching and holding dogs as explained above, is not against Islamic law and is not a sin.

Scholars from the Maliki and Hanafi mazhab are of the opinion that dogs are not impure except for their saliva. Thus any body part or object that comes into contact with the saliva of a dog has to be cleansed using the method explained in the earlier paragraph”. 

Syed Azmi Alhabshi urged all participants at the “I Want To Touch A Dog” event to bring bottles of water for everyone to clean themselves.  He said: “We will see non-Muslims sharing their water with Muslims so they can perform ‘sertu’… this is a way we can promote mutual respect, understanding and tolerance. We should always focus on moral and noble values. Each religion and culture have their own values. There is no need to be obsessive and arrogant”.

Color Coded

At least 86 dog owners have volunteered their dogs for the “I Want To Touch A Dog” event.  Syed Azmi Alhabshi said that the “I Want To Touch A Dog” event is open to the public and no registration is needed. However, participants are advised to follow a colour code to indicate their level of participation.

Participants should wear orange T-shirt if they only want to look at a dog, or simply to be near one.  Those wishing to touch a dog or to play with one must wear yellow tops.  Volunteer “sertu” coaches wear green while other volunteers wear purple.  And for dog owners who volunteered their pets, they are to wear red.

Syed Azmi Alhabshi said that after an hour’s interaction with the dogs, participants can learn how to perform the “sertu” ritual from volunteers.

Reactions

But there are those who object to Syed Azmi Alhabshi’s “I Want To Touch A Dog” event.  Syed Azmi Alhabshi said he had been scolded by total strangers.  Some took to Facebook to scold him.  Facebook user Noriah Yusof commented: “Apa event bodoh ni. Ini nak menyesatkan org Islam”.  (What stupid event is this? This is to deviate Muslims).

Another Facebook user by the name of Zainab Tambi wrote: “Macam x ada benda lain”.  (Like there is nothing else to do).

Syed Azmi Alhabshi said: “I just kept calm and responded to them politely. I even had to calm my non-Muslim friends down when they got very angry about the nasty remarks that were directed at me. I don’t know those people so I won’t condemn them. Whatever words they used against me, I will still have others, like the media, on my side. I have always been honest about the objective of the event and together with the help of my friends, we have all done our best for it. There is nothing to be disappointed about now”.

Concluding, Syed Azmi Alhabshi said: “Cruelty towards animals like dogs is not a Muslim issue. It is a Malaysian issue”.

Think About It

So how successful will this “I Want To Touch A Dog” event be?  Will there be more Muslims or non-Muslims at this event?  Will there be protests there? This event has the stamp of approval from both the police and Mais.  Does it mean that both the police and Mais do not think this is a sensitive event or one likely to lead to public disorder?  The twin objectives of this “I Want To Touch A Dog” event are to help overcome people’s fear of dogs and to prevent cruelty to animals.  The other noteworthy thing is that this event also promote multiracial relationship.

Allah Issue  Back In Court

Following the Court of Appeal’s decision to allow Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) church’s legal suit against the Home Minister and the government over the Allah issue to proceed, the High Court has now fixed November 4, 2014 for case management.  Amongst other things, SIB is seeking a declaration that it is entitled to use “Allah” in all its publications and in its practice.

About The Case

The case was triggered by the 2007 seizure by Customs officers of certain religious books under 6 titles that SIB imported from Indonesia.  The seizure was based on grounds that those publications contained the word “Allah” and 3 other words used in Islam.  Besides “Allah”, the other 3 words are “Baitullah”, “Solat” and “Kaabah”.

On May 5, 2014 SIB was denied permission by the High Court to proceed with its legal review case against the Home Minister and the government.  But on October 1, 2014 the Court of Appeal granted leave to SIB and its president, the Reverend Batuk Jerry W A Dusing to hear the matter.

The original SIB’s suit also called for the return of the seized books.  But these books were returned to SIB on January 25, 2008.  Accordingly, the current application for judicial review has been amended to exclude this demand, but the rest of the demands remain.

Declarations To Be Sought

The Court of Appeal has directed the High Court to hear the case.  SIB is seeking the following declarations from the High Court:

1.   That SIB have the constitutional right to use the word “Allah” in all its religious publications and materials.

2.   That SIB’s congregation is entitled to own, possess, use and import materials notwithstanding the use of the word “Allah” in those publications.

3.   That the government ban on the usage of “Allah”, “Baitullah”, “Solat” and “Kaabah” is unconstitutional.

Think About It

Malaysia is unique in that no other Muslim or Muslim-majority country has ever claimed that the word “Allah” is exclusive to Islam (and therefore Muslims).  In fact Islamic scholars agree that “Allah” predates Islam.  So why is Malaysia taking a contrary stand from the rest of the Islamic world?  Can Malaysia be right and all other Muslim countries wrong?  Or can it be the other way round?

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Malaysia – Allah Controversy Still Very Much Alive

Permanently Forbidden

In a move that have far reaching effects, Saudi Arabia has permanently forbidden the use of tobacco products in Islam’s holiest cities. And the World Health Organization (“WHO”) reacted positively to this development, giving the country an award.

The Ban

The permanent ban covers smoking and the use of tobacco products, starting with this year’s Hajj. The ban covers:

1.   Cigarettes

2.   Hookah (aka shisha or water pipe used in the Middle East). Prohibiting waterpipe smoking in cafes and restaurants within residential areas and near mosques, schools and wedding halls.

3.   Tobacco smoking around the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina

4.   Tobacco sales within city limits and beyond city limits, including prohibiting the sales in all food stores and in the neighborhood of mosques and schools.

Reactions

The WHO reacted positively to Saudi Arabia’s permanent ban on smoking and tobacco products.  WHO delivered its World No Tobacco Day Award to Saudi Arabia.  At the same time, the WHO issued a report entitled: “WHO smoke-free city case study: Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia”.

The WHO report said that Saudi Arabia “adopted a religiously inspired and radical policy approach to strengthening tobacco control”.

The WHO report refers to Saudi religious rulings (“fatwas”) on smoking, saying: “The fatwas stated that smoking in any form, and by whichever means, causes extensive health and financial damage to smokers. Consequently, and on this evidence alone, smoking would be forbidden to Muslims and they should not smoke”.

The ban  has created a black market with prices shooting up to  a 300% mark-up  for cigarettes and hookah products.

Think About It

The WHO report cited several fatwas on smoking.  Why then did it take so long for Saudi Arabia to ban smoking? Then again why make a permanent ban only around the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina? Why not over more places in the country?  How effective is this permanent ban when a black market for the forbidden products has appeared?  At 300% mark-up on prices in the black market, there must be a big demand for the banned products.

First Blink?

The Roman Catholic Church’s leadership has long stood firm against homosexuality, but after starring eye to eye with pro-homosexuals within the church, it appears that the leadership has just blinked at the recent Vatican synod where a preliminary report from the bishops said homosexuals had “gifts and qualities to offer”.

Call To Review Catholic Teaching On The Family

The call by senior clerics at the Vatican synod reviewing Catholic teachings on the family to adopt more positive stance on homosexuality is viewed positively by pro-homosexual groups – even though the report  did not specifically challenge the Roman Catholic Church’s long-held opposition to same-sex marriage.

Half way through the 2-week meeting of the General Assembly of the Synod of the Bishops, the report was tabled with this call: “Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community. Are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities?” The statement goes on to say: “Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions, it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners”.

Some 2,000 bishops are attending the General Assembly of the Synod of the Bishops convened by Pope Francis to discuss controversial issues like abortion, contraception,  homosexuality and divorce.

Reactions

Conservative groups have rejected this preliminary report, calling it a “betrayal”. John Smeaton, co-founder of The Voice Of The Family, a conservative Roman Catholic organization, called it “one of the worst official documents drafted in Church history”.

But Human Rights Campaign, a leading US gay rights organization called it a “dramatic new tone” while London-based Catholic gay rights group Quest called it a “breakthrough”.

Think About It

So is this preliminary report a “betrayal” or a “breakthrough”? Is it a trial balloon to see how the Catholic faithful will react to a “more positive stance” on homosexuality?  More importantly, is such a change in accordance with the teachings of its holy book (the Bible)?  If it is, does it mean that the Catholic Church has been wrong all this while in opposing homosexuality and same-sex marriage?

Sharia Law In UK Schools?

Al-Aqsa School in Leicester, a school run by a Muslim hardliner, was citing Sharia law in its child protection policies. It consulted “Ulama”, or Muslim scholars, in cases of child abuse and welfare cases. It also consulted “relevant outside agencies”.

Al-Aqsa is an independent school catering to 260 pupils aged three to 13 and fees cost 1,800 pounds ($2,870) a year.  Ibrahim Hewitt, an Islam fundamentalist, founded the school, and said that Sharia will be the “prime arbiter in child protection concerns”. He also believes that homosexuals should be lashed.

Only British Law

The school’s child abuse policy based on sharia law means that there is a possibility for a different level of protection for students. The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) was sent to the school by the Department of Education which ordered an inspection. They made it clear that only British law should be followed.

The school responded by saying that it had always given UK law the priority and it revised its protection policy to exclude any references to Sharia law. It added that its action plan has been approved by the Department of Education, which had the power to shut down the school. Anti-extremist pressure group One Law For All member Maryam Namazie said, “It is an outrage when children of Muslim parents cannot have the same protections as other children”.
Think About It

Should independent schools be able to decide on their own child protection policies or should they be subject to the laws of the government? But surely the parents who decide to send their children to such schools consent to the policies of that school or they wouldn’t send their children to that school. And why do issues of Sharia laws contradicting local laws always resurface? Are governments doing enough if these issues keep resurfacing?

Persistent Sexual Abuse

A Lebanese student married a 12-year-old girl and may face a maximum of 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to persistent sexual abuse of a child via a video link from a detention centre to the local court. The 26-year-old student married the girl in a religious ceremony at her father’s home in January. He had met the girl through her father while attending mosque. He was arrested while trying to apply for legal guardianship over the girl in February. The father also faces charges for procuring a child for sex and accessory before the fact to sexual intercourse with a child. The Muslim cleric who married the two was fined $500 after pleading guilty to solemnizing the marriage of an unauthorized person.

Child Marriage Permissible In Islam

In Islamic law, child marriages are permissible because there are records of Muhammad’s favourite wife, Aisha, marrying Muhammad when she was six. She was nine when the marriage was consummated. Marrying young girls was not unusual during that period, but since Muhammad is the supreme example of Muslim conduct, his actions are considered exemplary until today. So much so that in April 2011, Bangladeshi Mufti Fazlul Haque Amini announced that those who challenge Muhammad’s actions and try to pass a law banning child marriage were putting Muhammad in a bad light. The Mufti added that 200,000 jihadists were willing to sacrifice their lives for any laws prohibiting child marriage.

There are many countries who have made Muhammad’s example a basis for their marrying age. In Iran, girls can be engaged before the age of nine, but must have turned nine before they are married. A contract for marriage before the girl reaches puberty is permissible with the guardian’s approval if the interests of the child are observed.

Think About It

Despite age restrictions, children are still victims of sexual abuse. How should states respond to Muslim clerics marrying underage children? Are $500 fines harsh enough punishments? Why is it that so many Muslims have moved to Western countries and enjoy the benefits of it without observing the laws of that country? While they have freedom of religion they should still be subject to the laws of those countries and respect them. What about children living in Islamic countries then? What protection is there for them? How can parents be educated in a way that they can see that marrying off a child is not healthy or beneficial to the child?