Attempt to stop child marriage in Saudi Arabia fails

Attempt to stop child marriage in Saudi Arabia fails January 5, 2015

Islam: Religion of pedophiles? Despite efforts by human rights activists to end the barbaric practice of child marriage, Muslim men will continue to marry girls under the age of 15 in Saudi Arabia.

The push to raise the legal age of marriage to 15 was crushed after the Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, the most senior religious authority in the country, ruled that Islam supports men marrying underage girls.

The Grand Mufti ruled that it’s acceptable for men to marry girls under the age of 15, despite strenuous efforts by human rights activists and the Saudi justice ministry to set 15 as a minimum age for brides in the kingdom.

Grand Mufti Abdulaziz declared there is nothing prohibiting Muslim men from marrying girls under the age of 15. Abdulaziz is president of the Supreme Council of Ulema (Islamic scholars) and chairman of the Standing Committee for Scientific Research and Issuing Fatwas, which makes him the final authority in Saudi Arabia on Islamic teachings.

In Saudi Arabia, Muslim clerics have been fighting a successful battle to preserve the legal right of men to marry underage girls. In recent years reformists have been working to prevent and prohibit the abhorrent and barbaric practice of child marriage sanctioned by so many Islamic scholars. However, attempts to prohibit child marriage has met strong and sustained resistance by many Muslim scholars.

For example, in 2011, Dr. Salih bin Fawzan, a prominent cleric and member of Saudi Arabia’s highest religious council, issued a fatwa asserting that there is no minimum age for marriage and that girls can be married “even if they are in the cradle.”

Most Muslim scholars in support of child marriage note that nowhere does Sharia (or Islamic law) set an age limit for marrying girls.

However, perhaps most significant, and the biggest challenge to those attempting to reform Islam, and put an end to child marriage sanctioned by so many Islamic scholars, is the fact that Muhammad, Islam’s 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. In Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere in the Muslim world, this is simply too much to ask. Bottom-line:  underage girls continue to suffer.

Child marriage continues in Saudi Arabia
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