Morocco: Moroccan Ulemas Denounce Fatwa Authorising Underage Marriage

On September 21st, Moroccan Islamic scholars strongly rejected the fatwa authorising marriage for 9-year-old girls. An official inquiry has been launched.
Moroccan Islamic scholars strongly rejected Sunday (September 21st) the fatwa authorising marriage for 9-year-old girls, MAP reported. In a statement, Morocco's High Council of Ulemas "denounce[d] the utilisation of religion to legitimise the marriage of nine-year-old girls". Sheikh Mohamed Ben Abderrahman Al-Maghraoui issued an internet fatwa earlier this month stating that Islam allowed the marriage of nine-year-old girls. The Council reiterated that the legal age of marriage is 18 years.
Morocco - Underage Marriage Fatwa Prompts Official Inquiry

The controversial fatwa concerning underage marriage issued in Morocco by Cheikh Mohamed Ben Abderrahman Al Maghraoui will be the target of a new government inquiry, following a decision by the king's prosecutor in Rabat.

Debate and public outrage in Morocco over a controversial fatwa suggesting marriage be permissible for young girls have prompted an official inquiry into the matter. The fatwa, issued by Cheikh Mohamed Ben Abderrahman Al Maghraoui, said girls may be married as early as age nine. Morocco's High Council of Ulemas reacted to the fatwa on Sunday (September 21st), issuing a statement condemning the marriage of underage girls. Later that day, the king's prosecutor at the court of first instance in Rabat ordered a thorough inquiry into the fatwa and Al Maghraoui's competence. Lawyer and MP Fatima Mustaghfir explained that this is a first in Moroccan legal history. Until now, no case of this kind has ever come before the courts. "The courts must step in to fight against this kind of fatwa," she said, "but this is really the role of ulemas and imams in Morocco." "A judge may sometimes authorise the marriage of girls aged 15, 16 and 17 in exceptional cases, after medical advice has been sought. But it is inconceivable to talk about the marriage of girls as young as nine," she concluded. Reactions to the fatwa have been widespread. Even before the public prosecutor's office reached its decision, a barrister in Rabat by the name of Mourad Bakkouri had lodged a complaint. Some call the fatwa an assault on the Family Code and the rights of children, and say it increases the danger of rape. There are many who have applauded the decision by the public prosecutor’s office to put an end to the debate. Hassan Boukoura, a teacher of Islamic education, said it is of the utmost importance to ban exceptions that could become the rule. "Marriage in Morocco is governed by the law," Boukoura said. "We welcome the public prosecutor’s initiative in launching proceedings against this man for trying to pervert the law." Nurse Malika Sabri said this type of fatwa harms Morocco's image. "We already have a bad image because of terrorism; we don't need these opinions being voiced by madmen. I hope the courts will do what is needed in this case. This scandalous fatwa could encourage the early marriage of girls, particularly in rural areas." Lahcen Daoudi of the Justice and Development Party said the fatwa should simply be discredited and ignored. "It's madness. We're getting into a false debate on this ridiculous fatwa which will have no effect on the Moroccan people. I don't think people will listen to this view and marry their daughters off at nine years of age. No one can take this man seriously," he said. Speaking in his defence on television channel 2M, Al Maghraoui explained that his fatwa had been wrongly interpreted. He stressed that he was talking only of a few rare cases where nine-year-old girls could be married, in the tradition of the Prophet Mohammed. The statement from the High Council of Ulemas said Al Maghraoui is known for his subversive tendencies and said his sensational opinions will certainly not be heeded. The council pointed out that the legal age for marriage is 18 years, as specified in the Moroccan Family Code.

By: Sarah Touahri for Magharebia in Rabat

25 September 2008

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