Deplorable Egyptian Cleric Advocates New-Born Marriage
Child marriage in the Middle East and the Islamic world at large, remains a controversial issue. It has long been customary and culturally appropriate to marry women and girls off at young ages - often without consent, as a father will have the final say.
The child marriage debate in Egypt is no exception to this rule. In 2008, Egypt finally set the age of consent to 18. But some Egyptian MP's have called for the age of consent to be lowered to 9 years old - as there are still instances of illegal child marriage taking place in the country. Around 17% of all girls will be married under the legal age of consent, and around 92% will experience FGM or 'Cutting'.
Religious leaders however are taking the debate to worrying extremes, by advocating the notion that new-born babies can be married off. Cleric Muftah Mohammad Maarouf also known as Abu Yahya explains that his views on the issue are in correlation with the teachings of the Quran. He asserts that in Islamic Sharia, there is no set age for marriage when it comes to females - therefore he believes that as long as "no harm" done to the child, it is perfectly acceptable within Islam.
However, many scholars would disagree with, Abu Yahya - as it is largely accepted that both parties must be able to comprehend their rights and responsibilities within an Islamic marriage for it to be valid under the Sharia.
Despite Yahya's interpretation of Sharia law being extremely strict and minoritarian, there is a worrying shift towards hard line and literal interpretations of Islamic law.
Since the Arab Spring of 2011, the once banned hard line organisation, 'The Muslim Brotherhood', has been legalised in the North African nation. Many rights and protections for women, like the age of consent, have been bought into question. There have even been instances where rape and abuse have been blamed on the female victim 'being provocative', as they aren't wearing Hijab's.
The ever increasing trend of ultra-conservitive Islamic practices are showing no sign of slowing down. A Pew Poll from 2016 revealed that 74% of Egyptians advocate making Sharia law the official law of the land - which will no doubt plunge the rights of women into further decay.
The legal age of consent in Egypt thankfully still remains at age 18, for the time being. But to ensure there is no backsliding, due to the increasing influence of 'The Muslim Brotherhood' and ultra-conservatives like, Abu Yahya - there are organisations we can support that raise awareness, and help protect vulnerable women and girls across the globe.