CHARLOTTE, February 14, 2013 – In an interview on Islamic al-Maid TV, Saudi Arabian cleric, Sheikh Abdullah Daoud, has issued an unofficial fatwa (religious edict) calling for all female babies to have their faces covered with a burka in order to prevent them from being sexually assaulted.
Though the interview may be as much as a year old, it has been picked up by Al Arabiya news and social networking sites and immediately cited outrage that such beliefs are damaging to the image of Islam and Saudi Arabia.
Though official fatwas can only be issued by Saudi authorities, the sheikh’s statement prompted widespread condemnation on Twitter throughout Saudi Arabia. Many of the tweets claimed that Dauod was denigrating Islam and infringing upon individual privacy.
Appearing in a follow-up to the story on Al-Arabiya, Sheikh Mohammad Al-Jziana, a former judge for the Saudi Board of Grievances, stated that Daoud was making a mockery of Islam by painting the wrong image of the religion.
Al-Jziana went on to advise Saudis to disregard the edict because it is an unregulated demand. Al-Jziana says he is saddened when he sees a newborn child in the street wearing a veil. Forcing a baby girl to cover her face with a burka is an injustice to children according to the former judge.
Daoud based his fatwa upon information from unnamed medical authorities and security officials who claim there have been sexual attacks on babies in Saudi Arabia.
Despite Al-Jziana’s arguments against Daoud’s edict, he, too, has received criticism for failing to address the increasing problem of child molestation taking place in the country. Recent studies have shown that the rate of children in the Kingdom who suffer from rape and/or sexual violence at the hand relatives comes at the shocking rate of approximately 70%.
A gynecologist at the King Saud Medical Complex, Muna Al-Awad, reports that even married women are victims of sexual violence from their husbands while unmarried women often experience similar attacks by their brothers.
Discrimination and harassment of women is common in Saudi Arabia where many of their basic rights are denied. Saudi society teaches men from infancy that women are their property and males are allowed to do with them as they please.
Such restrictions for women include not being able to drive and being forced to have a male family member accompany her when she appears outdoors in public. In some cases a woman’s guardian can be her own son.
While such examples are a controversial problem of contemporary Saudi life, they are not without precedent in the religion. Though the Prophet Muhammad was marred to Aisha when she was seven years old, he consummated the marriage when she was nine.
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education recently began a social awareness campaign about sexual violence against children at the Women’s
Though Sheikh Daoud is not a senior sheikh, nor is he affiliated with the government, his comments have become a lightning rod of controversy throughout the Kingdom.
Strangely enough, much like the YouTube video that set off a firestorm last summer throughout the Middle East, Daoud’s comments were made public months ago and only now are gaining widespread attention.
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