Fatwas, Molestation, and Social Media

This one is truly disturbing. In Turkey, when the Ottoman caliphate was dissolved, the Directorate of Religious Affairs (or Diyanet) was founded. This body releases fatwas, answers to modern questions based off of the Koran, hadiths, and other Islamic writings. Last year, the Diyanet was asked if “a father’s lust for his daughter would affect his marriage.” In other words, if a man molests his daughter, does it religiously cancel out his marriage with his wife due to being unfaithful. According to Turkey’s news outlet, Hurriyet Daily News, the answer was given as follows:

For some, a father kissing his daughter with lust or caressing her with desire has no effect on the man’s marriage,” the answer said, referencing various religious sources. It cited the Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence as an exception, as it sees the daughter’s mother as “haram” (Arabic for “forbidden”) to such a man.

“Moreover, the girl would have to be over nine years of age,” the answer also said.

When the answer caused a firestorm in social media, the DIyanet went through several excuses to deflect the outrage. Their first explanation:

“An extensive investigation has been launched into the unfortunate incident at the order of the head of the Religious Affairs Directorate. A security report shows the website of our High Council on Religious Affairs has been subject to many attacks,” he said, in a statement.

“Such a fatwa has never been issued by our High Council on Religious Affairs,” he said, adding that the site had now been shut down to “prevent abuse.

They then changed to:

Diyanet head Mehmet Görmez said there had been a “misinterpretation” of the original Arabic but slammed media reports on the controversy as “false news engineering.”
“This was not a report but false news engineering, which included Islamophobic hate,” Görmez said in an interview on state-run TRT Haber.
He claimed that the target of the reports was “Islam itself,” adding that they amounted to the “worst defamation against the Diyanet ever.

This scandal is following the usual path when public figures get caught saying something vile on the Internet. First, they claim their site, Twitter account, Facebook account etc., has been hacked. When that doesn’t work, they fall back to saying their words were taken out of context or misunderstood. They then go on to blame the firestorm on a coordinated attack by their enemies, real or imagined.

Whether or not the Diyanet was truly (if briefly) endorsing child molestation, the incident highlights an important fact about Islam. Unlike Judaism and Christianity, Islam is based on goals rather than universal ethical and moral principles. This is why fatwas are so important to followers of Islam. Because there are no universal principles such as those laid out in the Ten Commandments, rulings on the “goodness” of actions and behaviors have to be based completely on the Koran, the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, and the several Islamic schools of thought. This leads to fatwas that are at times hilarious and at others, deeply disturbing.

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