Female Muslim clerics in Indonesia issue rare fatwas

channelnewsasia

Female Islamic clerics in Indonesia declared a series of fatwas Thursday, including one to tackle child marriage, a rare example of women taking a leading religious role in the Muslim-majority country.

 
Among the fatwas issued was one against women being sexually abused; and one against environmental destruction, in a country that struggles every year with huge fires that are started illegally and devastate vast swathes of rainforest. (Photo: AFP/Sonny Tumbelaka)

CIREBON: Female Islamic clerics in Indonesia declared a series of fatwas on Thursday (Apr 27), including one to tackle child marriage, a rare example of women taking a leading religious role in the Muslim-majority country.

The fatwas – religious edicts that have no legal force but are influential – were issued at the end of a three-day congress of female clerics in the country with the world’s biggest Muslim population.

The meeting in Cirebon on Java island, billed as the world’s first major gathering of female Muslim clerics, attracted hundreds of participants. Most were Indonesian but there were also clerics from Pakistan, India and Saudi Arabia.

They issued a series of fatwas at the end of the gathering, the most eye-catching of which was aimed at tackling child marriage. It urged the government to raise the minimum legal age for women to marry to 18 from the current age of 16.

The United Nations childrens’ agency UNICEF defines child marriage as a formal marriage or informal union before age 18, and says women are most affected.

The problem is widespread in Indonesia, with one in four women marrying before 18, according to the agency.

Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, who attended the meeting, suggested authorities would examine the proposal: “I will take this recommendation to the government.”

He also praised the gathering: “This congress succeeded in fighting for justice in the relationship between men and women.”

Among the other fatwas issued was one against women being sexually abused; and one against environmental destruction, in a country that struggles every year with huge fires that are started illegally and devastate vast swathes of rainforest.

Fatwas are regularly issued in Indonesia but it is usually the male-dominated Indonesian Ulema Council – the country’s highest Islamic authority – that declares them.

While the Ulema Council has issued rulings on environmental protection in the past, it tends to focus on religious topics such as edicts against blasphemy. It has rarely dealt with any issues affecting women.

About 90 per cent of Indonesia’s population of 255 million people are Muslim.

Source: AFP

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About Trần Đình Hoành

I am an attorney in the Washington DC area, with a Doctor of Law in the US, attended the master program at the National School of Administration of Việt Nam, and graduated from Sài Gòn University Law School. I aso studied philosophy at the School of Letters in Sài Gòn. I have worked as an anti-trust attorney for Federal Trade Commission and a litigator for a fortune-100 telecom company in Washington DC. I have taught law courses for legal professionals in Việt Nam and still counsel VN government agencies on legal matters. I have founded and managed businesses for me and my family, both law and non-law. I have published many articles on national newspapers and radio stations in Việt Nam. In 1989 I was one of the founding members of US-VN Trade Council, working to re-establish US-VN relationship. Since the early 90's, I have established and managed VNFORUM and VNBIZ forum on VN-related matters; these forums are the subject of a PhD thesis by Dr. Caroline Valverde at UC-Berkeley and her book Transnationalizing Viet Nam. I translate poetry and my translation of "A Request at Đồng Lộc Cemetery" is now engraved on a stone memorial at Đồng Lộc National Shrine in VN. I study and teach the Bible and Buddhism. In 2009 I founded and still manage dotchuoinon.com on positive thinking and two other blogs on Buddhism. In 2015 a group of friends and I founded website CVD - Conversations on Vietnam Development (cvdvn.net). I study the art of leadership with many friends who are religious, business and government leaders from many countries. In October 2011 Phu Nu Publishing House in Hanoi published my book "Positive Thinking to Change Your Life", in Vietnamese (TƯ DUY TÍCH CỰC Thay Đổi Cuộc Sống). In December 2013 Phu Nu Publishing House published my book "10 Core Values for Success". I practice Jiu Jitsu and Tai Chi for health, and play guitar as a hobby, usually accompanying my wife Trần Lê Túy Phượng, aka singer Linh Phượng.

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