Following are excerpts from an interview with Saudi cleric Muhammad Musa Al-Sharif, which aired on Al-Daleel TV on February 19, 2010.
Interviewer: One is astonished to hear, in a social gathering, an old man bragging about marrying a young girl, and boasting that his bride was given to him as a gift from her father, or that a business deal was struck at the expense of this poor girl, by parents who did not care about her childhood innocence or her humanity, or by parents whose poverty forced them to pay the old man with their daughter.
In today's, show, I will ask my guest, Dr. Al-Sharif, whether it is the right of the parents, or of society, to allow a girl to be married off at the age of 10 or 12 years. The law in the civilized world considers these marriages to be a crime. How are they viewed by our religious law?
Muhammad Musa Al-Sharif: This issue has been blown entirely out of proportion, and there is confusion about its basics. We say that such a girl is a "minor," but dictionaries do not define a girl as a minor, if she has reached puberty. 'Aisha said that when a girl reaches the age of nine, she becomes a woman. Let's be practical. Let's put all of this aside.
What is the percentage of these marriages in Saudi Arabia? In Saudi Arabia, we have 20 million people. Half of them are women – that's 10 million. According to the most extreme statistics I have read, 3,000 girls under the age of 13 were married off to men more than 20 years their senior. That's 3,000 out of 10 million, more or less.
What does this figure mean?
Interviewer: But don't you think that 3,000 is...
Muhammad Musa Al-Sharif: Allow me... Does 3,000 out of 10 million constitute a social phenomenon?
Interviewer: But even these 3,000 girls have rights.
Muhammad Musa Al-Sharif: Undoubtedly.
Interviewer: We should consider the humane aspect, even if there were only three girls.
Muhammad Musa Al-Sharif: In many newspapers, it has been suggested that the minimum age for marriage should be 18. Why 18? They said that Saudi Arabia is committed to something called the Human Rights Treaty, which set the minimum age for marriage at 18 years. This is, of course, unacceptable.
Interviewer: Why not?
Muhammad Musa Al-Sharif: I read that the official spokesman for the US government said that the US is worried about the marriage of girls in Saudi Arabia. This is really funny. The rate of child prostitution in American and Western societies is enormous. This is a well-known fact.
Second, all the children whose death was caused by the US in Palestine and Iraq... These people are not ashamed to say that they are worried about Saudi Arabia, even though they caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children in Palestine and in Iraq. This is really distorted logic.
Third, when Islamic law refers to a certain issue – we don't need human rights.
Let's assume that there is a 13-year-old girl... Let's make it 14. Her father sees that she is physically developed, has reached puberty, and has a sense of understanding – nothing in Islamic law prevents him from marrying her off.
Interviewer: Would you be willing to marry off your 10-year-old daughter to a man in his eighties?
Muhammad Musa Al-Sharif: No, brother, I would not, but there is a difference between Islamic law and its practice. I wouldn't be pleased by this, but I do not forbid it.
Let's assume that the government listens to these people, God forbid, and sets the minimum age for marriage at 18. There are many good girls who, at the age of 13 or 14, are developed and ready for marriage. There are hundreds of thousands of girls like that in our society. They will not be married off. They will have to wait 3 or 4 years to become 18. This constitutes an injustice to such a large sector of society – compared to the several dozens or hundreds of girls who would be wronged, because of the greed of their fathers.
We are committed to international treaties as long as they do not violate Islamic law. If they violate Islamic law, we should throw them out, because they are not worth the ink they were written with. With all due respect, the international treaties are worthless.
Who is responsible for the human rights and international treaties? The atheists, the Christians, and the fornicators, with all due respect.