You really couldn't make this stuff up.
Muslims from around the world can now phone a helpline in Abu Dhabi to ask that a fatwa - a religious edict - be issued on their behalf, and for general queries relating to their faith.
I recommend checking out this article from The Times , where I first encountered this heartwarming little story.
Apparently this helpline, set up 3 months ago and staffed by 48 Muftis, takes up to 3,700 calls a day, and is open from 8am to 8pm on working days. They even have a 'skeleton staff' at night-time to deal with 'religious emergencies'.
The Times interviewed one of the Muftis, 48 year old Abdulrahman Ammoura, who said "I'm tired, so tired, I hear ringing in my ears." He was upset by his last caller, a woman whose husband was an alcoholic who became violent, beating her and forcing her to have sex (IE rape, if you're not a Muslim). The woman asked if she should try to divorce him. Mr Ammoura, one of the most learned and respected Muftis in the UAE, replied "No - it is better for him to find help. A woman living alone with children could face too many problems."
Perhaps the wife-beating rapist should 'find help' by calling the helpline to find out if God can forgive him - for drinking alcohol. Treating your woman like property is of course quite OK. I'm beginning to wonder how many Muslim women wear a full burkha or hijab just to cover up the bruises.
As for this poor woman, what on Earth would she do even if she did divorce? After all, there's no point in being property if you don't have an owner.
For all that this disgusts and amuses us, I do feel that the UAE government deserve some tiny amount of credit for setting up this helpline. Any fatwas issued by the staff are done so according to guidelines laid down by the government's General Authority for Islamic Affairs and Endowments; any fatwas issued by unregulated clerics - which are more likely to be extremist in nature - are declared null by the government.
It's still completely bonkers though, don't you think?
If you're in need of some light entertainment and would like to get in touch with the helpcentre, you can call (+971) 8002244 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (+971) 8002244 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.
If you can read Arabic, go to their website www.awqaf.ae
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