Statements By Saudi Sheikh Calling To Dress Little Girls And Even Babies In Hijab Causes Stir In Saudi Arabia
An interview given last year by Saudi Sheikh 'Abdallah Al-Daoud to the channel Al-Majd TV has recently been circulated on the internet. Al-Daoud noted in the interview that Muslims in East Asia often require girls to wear a hijab from the age of two, and that the Saudis should therefore start even earlier. The Sheikh added that if a girl is an object of desire, her parents must make her wear a hijab in order to protect her from sexual molestation.
Sheikh Al-Daoud's statements sparked outrage in the Saudi media and on social networks. The critics described his view as a distortion of Islam and an invasion of privacy, and called to prosecute him.
In response to the uproar, Al-Daoud said that the interview had been given over a year ago, and that a group of liberals had disseminated it on the internet. He claimed that his words had been taken out of context, because he had not called on Saudi parents to dress their girls in a hijab but only commented on the customs of Muslims in East Asia.
The following are excerpts from the Sheikh's statements to Al-Majd TV (as translated by MEMRI TV), and from some of the responses to them on Twitter and in the Saudi press.
Sheikh Al-Daoud: "Whenever The Girl Is An Object Of Desire, The Parents Have The Duty To Cover Her Up"
In his interview on Al-Majd TV, Al-Daoud said: "The prevalent custom among Muslims of the countries of East Asia is to make girls start wearing the hijab in the second year of their lives. This has motivated us to compete with them, and we will start our girls wearing the hijab even earlier.
"We should not consider this to be without precedent. In many countries, in East Asia, for example, Muslims are distinguished by their hijabs and the hijabs of their daughters. Some of these countries have more than one religion.
"Let me say to the viewers: We want this too. We do not want to see revealing and shameful clothing, especially when girls start to develop and fill out, and show signs of beauty, and so on. You find that she is in a state of exposure and nudity. I think we know that there are fatwas that forbid this, even if they have not yet reached the stage of puberty. Whenever the girl is an object of desire, the parents have the duty to cover her up with a hijab."
After the interview was circulated on the internet, Twitter users launched a "Cover Up The Desirable Girl" hashtag campaign. Among the messages were the following:
"It would be better to say, 'castrate those who desire children.'"
"This is a disease called pedophilia. We must treat the sexual deviant, not cover up a little girl."
"Instead of saying 'cover up attractive girls,' those pathetic people should say 'imprison the animal that lusts after little children.'"
Saudi Sheikh: This Is A Sickening Perversion
Criticism of Al-Daoud's statements was also voiced in the Saudi media and press. For example, Saudi Sheikh Muhammad Al-Jathlani, a former judge on the Saudi Board of Grievances, told Alarabiya.net that Sheikh Al-Daoud's statements were a perversion and a disease which must be treated, and that they harmed Islam, the shari'a and their image. He called on Saudi society to not heed people who hold such views, noting that Saudi Arabia has an official institution authorized to issue religious rulings. He added that for parents to cover up their little girls is a crime and a form of oppression, since children must be allowed to enjoy their innocent childhood.
Saudi Liberal: This Is A Crime Against Childhood
Saudi liberal columnist Halima Muzaffar wrote in the government Saudi daily Al-Watan: "Having finished subjecting women to their extremism, these [clerics]... have now turned their arrows and their deviant fatwas on little girls, [thus] distorting the beauty and humanity of Islam... [Sheikh Al-Daoud's] statements made me nauseous, because they indicate that there are people who lust after little children. To combat [their desires], we cover up those little girls, thus permitting [the perverts] to desire little girls whenever they wish. [The message is that] little girls who are not covered up are seductive, and therefore they must wear a hijab and a face veil, if they are four or five years old. This is nothing but a crime against childhood, because [these girls] are forced to do something that Allah does not require, with no consideration for their innocence at this age, and ignoring their need to play and be happy...
"In some public places like markets and hospitals, I have had the painful and tragic [experience] of seeing little girls – some of them no older than four or five, and some slightly older – accompanied by their families, dressed in little robes and with a hijab covering their hair. It is so sad that their childhood is denied them and that they are whisked away from their innocent world just for being females. I never expected parents to become so extremist that they would force a niqab on a prepubescent girl whose body is not yet developed [enough] to be seductive... Hijacking innocent childhood and throwing it into the talons of extremism by means of such strange fatwas... is a great violation of human rights, and its perpetrators must be punished, even if they are the fathers. These girls' only crime is that they are female... We need strict laws that will prevent the molestation of girls and women by imposing severe penalties for such molestation..."
Saudi Columnist: Preachers Present The Woman As An Emblem Of Temptation
Saudi columnist 'Abd Al-'Aziz Al-Samari wrote in the Saudi government daily Al-Jazirah: "...Covering the face of a little girl [is tantamount to] erasing her individuality as a human being from an early age. It places the girl, and later the woman, in a position of weakness by forcing her to speak to others from behind a veil, which harms her personality and reduces her abilities and her chances of succeeding in society. Generally speaking, hiding [a woman's] face [is tantamount to] erasing her identity, so that she is [nothing more than] a body and a moving [sack of] female hormones with no personality... or an entity without expression...
"For incomprehensible reasons, sex has always been, and still is, the main [factor] powering the religious discourse and preaching in Saudi society. Almost [all] fatwas deal with women and the danger of seduction they pose, while portraying them as weak and fragile beings, in contrast to the tough men, and schooling them to obedience. This, even though women in Islamic history... participated in wars and even led them, and some of them attained leadership roles on the national level. Despite this, some [preachers] try to portray [the woman] as a being that was created only to sexually stimulate [the man] and be a symbol of [sexual] pleasure and seduction..."
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