Egypt’s grand mufti: Hymen not “rational” proof of virginity

"Islam does not care for the feelings of ignorant people," says an Egyptian sheik.

Topics: Religion, Broadsheet, Muslim Women, Islam, Love and Sex,

This is the best bit of news I’ve come across in a while: Egyptian Grand Mufti Aly Gomaa issued a fatwa declaring it religiously acceptable for a woman to have her hymen surgically reconstructed, according to the Daily Star Egypt. On the surface that might not seem grounds for celebration, but consider that in certain regions, an unmarried woman who loses her virginity might very well become the target of an “honor killing.” Even better, though, is that Gomaa scoffed at the idea of considering a torn hymen as evidence that a woman has lost her virginity: “It is not rational for us to think that God has placed a sign to indicate the virginity of women without having a similar sign to indicate the virginity of men.”

Apparently, Gomaa’s fatwa has set off a firestorm throughout Egypt. But he isn’t without legitimate supporters. Sheikh Khaled El Gindy, a member of the Higher Council of Islamic Studies, backed Gomaa’s stance (with a little added sass): “Any man who is concerned about his prospective wife’s hymen should first provide a proof that he himself is virgin.” Then, when a reporter asked El Gindy about the sanctity of a woman’s virginity, he responded: “Islam does not care for the feelings of ignorant people, just as the law does not protect the idiots.” Love it!



A blogger on Eteraz.org clearly spells out why this should be considered a triumph for Muslim women’s rights: “What is remarkable about this fatwa is that while it accepts the underground hymen-surgery racket, it does not endorse it; it considers the practice acceptable only because it protects a woman from potential violence. The real meat of the fatwa is in its de-emphasis of the need for proof of virginity — and in a region of the world where a woman is not considered a virgin unless she bleeds on her wedding night, this is a serious blow to entrenched un-Islamic misogynistic cultural practices.”

Tracy Clark-Flory

Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

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