Turkey’s Religious Affairs Agency Promotes Child Marriage

Aisha was a child bride: Under Islamic law girls as young as nine may marry, according to Turkey’s religious affairs state agency.

Earlier this week Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs – or Diyanet – which is responsible for administering religious institutions and education, declared that girls as young as nine could marry under Islamic law.

The BBC reports that Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs stated that “according to Islamic law, the beginning of adolescence for boys was the age of 12 and for girls the age of nine,” and that “whoever reached the age of adolescence had the right to marry.”

The declaration sparked outrage in the country after news of the pronouncement spread, prompting an outpouring of anger on social media from Turkish women’s groups and others.

In addition, the main opposition party in Turkey is demanding a parliamentary inquiry into the announcement, and the prevalence of child marriage in the country.

After meeting a firestorm of criticism, Turkey’s religious affairs state agency claimed they were only clarifying Islamic law before deleting the controversial post from their website.

Pakistan Today reports:

Turkey’s religious affairs state agency came under heavy criticism on Thursday from the main opposition party after it reportedly said girls as young as nine could marry under Islamic law.

The Diyanet religious affairs directorate said on Tuesday the minimum age for girls to marry was nine, while for boys it was 12, according to Turkish media including Hurriyet daily quoting the agency’s official website.

The BBC reports:

Turkey’s main opposition party has called for a parliamentary inquiry after the directorate of religious affairs said that, under Islamic law, girls as young as nine could marry.

The comments by the Diyanet prompted an outpouring of anger on social media from Turkish women’s groups.

The directorate insisted it was only defining points of Islamic law.

Turkey’s legal age of marriage is 18 but the practice of underage weddings in religious ceremonies is widespread.

Indeed, child marriage is a problem throughout the Muslim world. Last year, in Pakistan, a bill that would prohibit underage marriages was withdrawn after Muslim clerics declared the ban to be “un-Islamic” and “blasphemous.”

One of the biggest challenges to those attempting to reform Islam, and put an end to child marriage, is the fact that Muhammad, Islam’s prophet and role model, married Aisha when she was only six or seven, and “consummated” the marriage when she was nine.

For many Muslims, to condemn child marriage is to condemn Muhammad. And for many Muslims, this is simply too much to ask.

As always, it is the children who suffer.

Turkey’s Religious Affairs Agency Promotes Child Marriage (Image - Turkey's Islamist-leaning President Recep Tayyip Erdogan - via YouTube)
Turkey’s Religious Affairs Agency Promotes Child Marriage (Image – Turkey’s Islamist-leaning President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – via Twitter)
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