Wednesday, 13 October 2010

You can't commit rape within marriage, says head of UK Islamic Sharia Council

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Of course, one interpretation of the above headline would leave you wondering why someone had bothered to state the obvious. Of course you can't commit rape within marriage – it's illegal. Sadly, this isn't what Sheikh Maulana Abu Sayeed, president of the London-based Islamic Sharia Council, means – speaking in an interview with Chaminda Jayanetti of the Samosa blog, which I found via Pickled Politics, he outlined his, well, interesting views on sexual assault:
"I asked Sheikh Sayeed whether he considered non-consensual marital sex to be rape.

'No,' he replied. 'Clearly there cannot be any ‘rape’ within the marriage. Maybe ‘aggression’, maybe ‘indecent activity’.'

He said it was 'not Islamic' to classify non-consensual marital sex as rape and prosecute offenders, adding that 'to make it exactly as the Western culture demands is as if we are compromising Islamic religion with secular non-Islamic values.'"
The Islamic Sharia Council is not an official court, but it is able, as with other Sharia courts in the UK (Sayeed told the Samosa there are 16 around the country) to provide arbitration for the resolution of civil disputes between consenting parties, who most often are married couples. And it's surely a cause for concern that someone holding these views is able to provide this service in 21st century Britain. Sayeed does point out that he doesn't condone a husband having sex with his wife "if it happened without her desire", but he doesn't view it as a rape. It's more a case of bad manners, it seems:
“Because within the marriage contract it is inherent there that man will have sexual intercourse with his wife. Of course, if he does something against her wish or in a bad time etc, then he is not fulfilling the etiquettes, not that he is breaching any code of sharia – he is not coming to that point. He may be disciplined, and he may be made to ask forgiveness. That should be enough.”
Sayeed's comments raise serious questions over whether Sharia tribunals should be allowed to provide arbitration in the UK. And even if they are, should such a body really be led by a man who holds such views? Sunny Hundal of Pickled Politics thinks not:
"I’m sorry but regardless of his interpretation of Islamic law – British law is clear that even within marriage, a man does not have automatic right to have non-consensual sex with his wife. Such a stance is in blatant contradiction of British law. The head of the Sharia Council needs to resign."
And in the meantime, I think it's fair to say Sayeed has earned himself a nomination for the New Humanist Bad Faith Award.
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