ASIA/LEBANON - Christian and Muslim leaders discuss the bill against early marriages

Wednesday, 14 February 2018 marriage   childhood   sharia   oriental churches   islam

Kaslik (Agenzia Fides) - The different religious communities are called to confront themselves and to promote a reflection to review their own customs and community rules if they want to concretely contribute to overcoming the social practice of "early marriages". This is the perspective that emerged in the conference promoted Wednesday, February 13 at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK), entitled "Protecting children from early marriages". The debate took its cue from the bill for the "protection of children from early marriage", presented to Parliament in March 2017 by MP Élie Keyrouz, that aims to establish the minimum age of marriage at 18. The main speeches during the conference were held by Sunni Sheikh Malek al-Shaar, Mufti of Northern Lebanon, by Shi'a Sheikh Abbas al-Jawhari, president of the Arab Center for Dialogue, and by Bishop Hanna Alwan, Maronite Patriarchal Vicar.
Mufti Malek al-Shaar, in his speech, recalled that Islam does not establish a legal age for marriage, and "this means that anyone is authorized to marry". For this reason, according to the Sharia law, it was not forbidden to marry girls under the age of 10. "Even if the customs and traditions differ from one century to another, from one Country to another and from one culture to another", said the Sunni representative "in many Arab countries, things are evolving". Egypt, Jordan and other Sunni majority countries have set the minimum age for marriage for girls at 17 and for boys at 18. Shi'a Sheikh Abbas al Jawhari, in his speech, pointed out that in the Islamic world girls were allowed to get married "on the pretext that the Prophet would have married Aisha, who was only nine years old", but such fact "has never been proven". The Shi'a representative said he was in favor of introducing the rule of a minimum age of 18 for marriage in Lebanon. In his speech he also recalled the fatwas issued by the Iranian ayatollahs who authorized early marriage, adding that the relationship between prescriptions that refer to religious writings and civil laws should be regulated by using methodologies that allow us to overcome literal interpretations of the Holy Texts.
In his speech, Maronite Bishop Hanna Alwan recalled that according to the canon law of the Eastern Catholic Churches "marriage before age 18, for women and men, is rejected and strongly discouraged", is allowed only in special cases (for example when the girl is pregnant) and requires the authorization not only of the parents, but also of the bishop. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 14/2/2018)