No man? No hajj

The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore gives up its attempts to gain permission for women under 45 to make the pilgrimage to Mecca without male accompaniment

By Catherine Price

Published December 11, 2007 8:15PM (EST)

In the United States, there's occasionally debate over when people truly become adults. Is it when they turn 18? 21? Move out of their parents' homes and get a paying job? But most people would probably agree that adulthood tends to strike sometime before you're 45.

It's too bad, then, that Saudi Arabian authorities continue to forbid Muslim women under the age of 45 from making the annual monthlong hajj to Mecca without the accompaniment of a close male relative. The rule itself is old news -- the disheartening new twist is that Singapore's Islamic Religious Council has given up the fight for exceptions to it.

As reported by Reuters and News 24, in the past, Singapore's Islamic Religious Council has tried to appeal on the behalf of single, unaccompanied women who want to make the pilgrimage. But for the past two years straight, its attempts have failed. Rather than continue the fight, the council is giving up. "We should respect the rules they have laid down," Yaacob Ibrahim, the minister for Muslim affairs, is quoted as saying.

Another spokesperson is quoted as saying that "it is better to stop the appeals as it avoids complications with being unable to go ... We do not wish people to get disappointed at the last minute." So, in other words, it's better to never have any hope at all than it is to have hope dashed? I'm trying to figure out a way to work that into an inspirational "quotable magnet" ("Far worse to hope and fail than to never have hoped at all"?), but it's not quite working. Neither, apparently, will the women's attempts to be treated as independent adults before they're 45.

Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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