Friday, February 23, 2007

Good and Bad News in Islam

Another day, another piece of idiocy from religious nutjobs in the UK. And a couple very welcome pronouncements for women from the Grand Mufti of Egypt, one of the most authoritative voices in Sunni Islam.

First the bad news

The Daily Express reports that the Muslim Council of Britain has slipped its cams and demanded strict Islamic standards for all schools in the UK. How strict? Well for example...

Everything from playground games, plays, parent meetings, sports and field trips would be single sex. Singing class would consist of the Quran. Muslim students would be exempt from learning about other religions, but non-Muslims students would be forced to learn Islamic doctrine. Girls would be subject to a dress code mandating that only hands and face would be uncovered. Vaccinations would be ended. Muslims children would be taught in Arabic. "Un-Islamic" activities would be banned. All schools would have special rooms for prayer and wudu. During Ramadan science classes would be modified, exams would be stopped and swimming would be forbidden in case students accidentally swallowed water.

This wouldn't normally be a cause for concern except that the report has the support of at least one senior Government adviser. Add that the MCB is a powerful political pressure group, and it is a bit worrying. I don't think that the recommendations are going to be implemented any time soon if we define "soon" as "before the Chassids make Porky Pig Bar Mitzvah". In light of the current Muslim/everyone else problems in the UK it's going to be a source of added aggravation. I'm taking odds, long odds but odds nonetheless, that we'll see anti-Muslim riots or non-governmental pogroms in Britain within five years.

Now the good news

Back in November the Grand Shaykh of Al Azhar and Aly Gomaa, Grand Mufti of Egypt, and two of the most prestigious scholars in the Sunni world issued a fatwa on female genital mutilation. Earlier rulings said that it was "not recommended" and "not obligatory". This one went much further. The two scholars announced that it was completely un-Islamic. In a country which has seen multiple secular prohibitions against the practice ignored or opposed this is a very welcome development.

This time Mr. Gomaa took on virginity. According to old custom in the area a woman's fitness for marriage was determined by the state of her hymen. In a country where honor murders still occur this is a very serious matter. The particular question was hymen-reconstruction surgery. Shaykh Gomaa stated that not only was it permissible, but that a husband had no more right to demand proof of virginity from his wife than she had to demand it from him. Shaykh Gindy went further saying "Islam does not care for the feelings of ignorant people, just as the law does not protect the idiots." They noted that women without hymens were subject to violence, which was the only justification for permitting the surgery. Further, if they were not virgins but truly repented their lack of chastity before G-d there was no need to tell their new husbands, particularly if they felt they would be in danger.

This extremely humane set of pronouncements is to be applauded. The Shaykhs have taken quite a risk in a country which is struggling with the relation between religion, ethnic customs and modernization.

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