mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Even If They’re In The Cradle

In April a 12-year old girl filed for divorce from her 82-year old husband, who had paid the girl’s father a $23,000 dowry, runs a story in today’s Wall Street Journal.  The divorce was granted, and now some in the Ministry want to ban child marriage all together.

Not so fast! says Sheik Saleh al-Fawzan, one of Saudi Arabia’s most important clerics.

He is so upset with the Justice Ministry’s plans that he issued a fatwa, saying “Those who are calling for a minimum age for marriage should fear God.”

Girls’ fathers should be allowed to give their daughters in marriage “even if they are still in the cradle”. He has a somewhat more practical view on sex between a husband and his new young wife though: “It isn’t permissible for their husbands to have sex with them unless they are capable of being placed beneath and bearing the weight of the men.”

Islam is not the only world religion whose leaders say and do strange things.  Christian clerics long defended human slavery and told secular rulers that the burning of heretics was a religious duty.  In the end Christian civilization was wiser than some of its leaders; the Islamic world, one hopes, will walk the same path.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Acksiom

    I look forward with great anticipation to the day you start criticizing christian nations for allowing their citizens to profit from the genital mutilation of innocent children.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @Acksiom: I have absolutely no idea what you mean.

  • Acksiom

    Okay, I’ll take you literally and go through it one step at a time.

    First of all, according to the common legal standards across majority Christian nations, amputating normal, healthy, functional human body parts without a direct medical health necessity is considered mutilation by default, yes?

  • Aaron

    WRM, I would assume that Acksiom is talking about circumcision. I’m not sure who is profiting from it unless one is speaking of a Jewish mohel. For other religions, at least from what I’ve read, in the US the procedure is performed as a quickie operation at the hospital. Nevertheless, I cannot imagine someone grows up thinking, “My the money I could make as a mohel!”

  • RayH

    “Islam is not the only world religion whose leaders say and do strange things.”

    What’s the point of bringing up practices in the Christian world that are not only long discredited but long since ended in comparison with practices in the Islamic world that are not only current but are in fact normative? Do I detect a bit of moral equivalence here?

    • Walter Russell Mead


  • Luke Lea

    Keep in mind that Mohammad married a nine-year-old girl; orthodox Muslims must therefore find it impossible to condemn such a practice, though the issue of consummation is a different matter.

    In non-Muslim societies that practice arranged marriages (Hindus, Jews) I seem to recall similar things, i.e., very young girl betrothed to middle-aged or older man. It was all about family.

    Closer to home, Goethe was the God-father (or guardian?) of a twelve-year-old girl whom he raised with the express intention of making her his wife if I remember correctly (which I may not).

    And didn’t one of the Tudor kings of England marry his infant daughter to the infant son of the king of France or something like that?

    What it comes down to is judging pre-modern societies by modern standards. Not that there is anything wrong with that necessarily. There’s been a lot of (Whig) progress over the past 200 years. 😉

  • David Hoffman

    The problem with Islam is that it seems to be less flexible about reforming many of its practices than other religions. Since the Koran is the literal word of God, it is hard to oppose or reinterpret something that the Koran commands. Since Mohammed is considered to be the perfect role model, his example must be followed even if some of the things he did were more appropriate for a seventh century Arabian warlord than anyone living in the twenty-first century. All of this makes it difficult for western style progress to take place.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service