From covering the face of baby girls to "avoid temptation", to allowing sex with the corpse of your dead wife, a psychiatric look at the most misogynistic fatwas and what they say about their authors.
The casuistry allowed in Islam lends wiggle room for some clerics to issue outrageously fatuous fatwas. One of the most recent examples was passed down on February 2013, when a Saudi cleric called for the full-veiling of female babies as means of preventing their sexual molestation. Prior to this safeguard, the head of Al-Azhar University’s Department of Hadith, Cleric Izzat Atiya, issued a similarly witless fatwa in May of 2007. In it, Atiya finally addresses the age-old issue of inter-colleague breastfeeding. “Breastfeeding an adult man five times makes it legal for the woman to sit alone with that man at a closed workplace. Since her work-mate statutorily becomes her foster son, the woman can take off her veil in front of him without being in violation of Islamic rulings,” the Sheikh said, before being dismissed. Completing the hat trick was Moroccan Imam Abdelbari Zemzami in May 2011, who halalized necrophilia on the basis that a husband still has the right to have sex with his dead wife – so long as it happens within the six hours following her death. No shame in religion, they say.
“Those muftis have sexuality issues,” explains Dr. Abubakr Harakat. According to the Moroccan sexologist and psychologist, fatwas like these all fall under perversion, one of the heaviest and most complex chapters in psychopathology. “Necrophilia is part of the sexual perversions: if a man asks a mufti if he’s allowed to have sex with his dead wife, the mufti can answer that death must be respected in the name of religious, moral and social decency. Not to mention that sexual relations require mutual consent…” Dr. Harakat adds: “The men behind those fatwas want to debride an inhibited narcissism, get noticed and indulge themselves.” And perhaps, indulge their fantasies. According to Harakat, the personal peculiarities of individual clerics have a tendency to cloud their objective interpretations. Instead of treading the difficult path of reason and impartial dissection, clerics, he argues, might be emitting opinions that satisfy them personally. What Islamic thinker and reformer Gamal Al-Banna defines as “closure of the gates of Ijtihad” (free interpretation of religious texts) is, for Harakat, a “discharge expressed in terms of perversion: clerics nowadays manipulate religion to satisfy their own sexual frustrations. Through fatwas, they pervert the spirit of the texts they are supposed to honor.”
“The men behind those fatwas want to debride an inhibited narcissism, get noticed and indulge themselves."--Abubakr Harakat, psychologist.
In an essay titled “Ethics, Tradition, Authority: Toward an Anthropology of the Fatwa,” researcher Hussein Ali Agrama relates that in Cairo’s Al-Azhar mosque, a misguided mufti bears “the responsibility for the enactments of the people to whom he issues [the fatwa], a responsibility he will face not in this life, but in the hereafter. Such responsibility is considered so great that some sheikhs (…) prefer not to work in the Fatwa Council or give fatwas generally, even though the latter is considered a general requirement of their profession.” That weightiness of exactitude doesn’t seem to affect the fatwa-mill of Moroccan Sheikh Al-Maghraoui, who permitted the marriage of 9 year-old girls. In the opinion of Dr. Harakat, muftis like Al-Maghraoui or Zemzami take advantage of their authority to expand their audience. “There’s a feeling of omnipotence when issuing fatwas – even when ignorance replaces knowledge. Those muftis represent obscurantism, and not only ideologically. They allegedly violate reason.”
“The reasoning is primary,” avouches Dr. Harakat. “Everything is connected to the belly and what’s below. The upper floor is offline. Instead of working on their sexual compulsion, they attack and veil women and babies to contain their own frustrations.” This is the product of what Malek Chebel, a specialist of Islam calls “gonadism in Islam.” For Malek Chebel, “the mental structure of Islam is phallic before being patriarchal, anti-women before being misogynist.” What we are left with then is a “denigration of privacy that has led to significant confusion between different levels of the fault.” In the case of February’s fatwa: the man’s potential perversion becomes the baby’s responsibility. Dr. Harakat spells it out best: “foolish muftis embody underdevelopment. Such minds can only hatch in social landfills like our muslim and Arab world.” The sexologist certifies that this cluster of muftis sexualize everything and everyone. ”They do look at women and girls with their penises, not with their eyes. Wanting burkas for babies is repressed pedophilia; arguing that it’s for the good of children makes no sense. It’s like a rapist justifying his act by accusing the skirt of his victim…”
*Ayla is a Moroccan journalist specialized in underground culture.