Morocco: Scandal14 septembre 2008
A Muslim leader has issued a fatwa which has aroused no end of emotions. And for good reasons. Cheikh Mohamed ben Abderrahmane Al-Maghraoui has published a religious opinion on an internet site authorising the marriage of little girls from the age of nine. A lawyer and human rights organisations are condemning a call to the, "rape," of children and to "paedophilia."
Cheikh Mohamed ben Abderrahmane Al-Maghraoui is in the line of sight of Moroccan human rights defenders. According to the daily newspaper Al Jarida Al Oula of September 1st, the religious leader has issued a fatwa authorising the marriage of little girls from the age of nine, on the internet site Maghrawi. "It has been said and we have seen that nine year old girls are just as ready for marriage as girls aged 20 and older," Cheikh Mohamed ben Abderrahmane Al-Maghraoui allegedly explained on Maghrawi.net. To back up what he is saying, he also cited the example of the Prophet, who married one of his wives when she was nine years old.
If he wanted to create a scandal, he has succeeded. Many human rights defenders have stepped into the breach. They are condemning a reactionary religious opinion which violates the International Convention of the Rights of the Child, which Morocco has ratified, and the new Family Code, which fixes at 18 years the minimum age for marriage - regardless of sex. This is without taking into account that the Code itself is not inflexible on the subject of early marriage. "The legislature has exceptionally authorised early marriage and left it to the authority of a judge without the minimum age or contractual conditions of this type of marriage being made clear. The result is that the marriage of minors is still taking place," Fatiha Mesbahi, member of the central office of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights*, stresses. (*AMDH)
As a result, some fear that the fatwa encourages even more the marrying of minors, especially as, "in Morocco, a large percentage of the population is illiterate," comments Mourad Bekkouri, lawyer at the Rabat bar. "In the small villages, there is no way of knowing what is going to happen, how people are going to react. They could marry their daughters from age nine, thinking that the fatwa is official, while it has not been validated by the Higher Council of Ulema*." Given the risks, Me Mourad Bekkouri placed a complaint before the Rabat "Tribunal d'Instance" (Editor's note: lowest level court in the French judicial system) on September 4th and is waiting to see if the prosecutor will open an investigation.
*Ulema - Islamic lawyers. (Editor's note)
This fatwa is a crime against humanity.
For the lawyer, this struggle is for the preservation of innocence. And he doesn't mince his words: "I consider that this fatwa is an infringement of the rights of the child and a call to rape and to paedophilia." An opinion shared by several newspapers and associations. "At this stage, this is not promotion of paedophilia, it is paedophilia, full stop! At age nine, a girl is not mature enough for sexual relations, to receive sperm, to be impregnated...She might as well be killed in advance! This fatwa is a crime against humanity. The person who issued it should be charged," Mohammed Graigaa, executive director of the Moroccan Family Planning Association, strongly protests.
Saïda Drissi Amrani is president of the Democratic Association of Moroccan Women in Rabat. When she read the Al Jarida Al Oula article, it made her feel, "sickened," and she couldn't "finish reading the article." "It was the start of the school year. So, the message is what? Don't take your daughters to school, get them married? But can such a young girl understand what marriage is? Sexual relations? Is she really mature enough to decide? We mustn't justify the unjustifiable! Children are the parents' responsibility until aged 18, not a husband's!" rages Saïda Drissi Amrani, who classifies as "frustrated," and, "sick," those who look to religion for excuses to spread their ideas.
Excuses because Cheikh Mohamed ben Abderrahmane Al-Maghraoui omitted to report an important part of the Prophet's union with Aisha, and has thus, "sullied," the image of Islam in the name of his "fundamentalist," beliefs. "The Prophet did not consummate the marriage at the age that Aisha's father gave his daughter. It was indeed much later," is particularly noted by Mohammed Graigaa, who stresses that the person who issued the fatwa, "seeks merely to make himself important." Not impossible. According to several local newspapers, it is a salafiste* desperate for fame, who is issuing fatwas on controversial subjects in order to come out of the shadows.
* Someone who claims to be returning to the roots of Islam. (Editor's note)
To prevent further texts from creating scandal. Me Mourad Bekkouri considers that the Minister for Habous* and Religious Affairs should interest himself in controlling this sort of output. As for the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, "The AMDH," states indique Fatiha Mesbahi, "has always struggled for and called for religion to be separated from the State, which international conventions have ratified without reservation, and for domestic laws to be brought into line with international legislation. If that were the case, we would not be at the mercy of fatwas formulated to distort from the "Cheikh and the Ulema."
* Habous (also Houbous) (Arabic: الحبوس) is an Islamic term related to land property legislation in the Muslim world.
Habous can be classified into three main categories: private, public, or mixed. (Editor's note)