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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Saudi religious leader bans swine flu pamphlets

This story is just weird:
The Director of Endowments and Mosques (Auqaf) in Jeddah, Sheikh Fuhaid Bin Muhammad Al-Barqi, has announced that swine flu information leaflets containing images of living creatures have been banned inside mosques for conflicting with the Shariah.

These images are impermissible inside people’s houses, let alone in the houses of Allah,” Al-Barqi said.

The Endowments and Mosques Department is, according to Al-Barqi, taking part in spreading awareness of the dangers of swine flu, with Imams having been instructed to cooperate in that regard.

“There is no objection to distributing swine flu awareness leaflets inside mosques as long as they do not have images of living beings. The ones with pictures can be distributed outside the mosque after prayer,” Al-Barqi said.

Former editor of Al-Watan newspaper, Qainan Al-Ghamdi, wrote of the prohibition of the leaflets Wednesday saying they were an “attack on the ministry volunteers handing out the leaflets, which will move on to the Ministry of Health itself and later the State.”

Al-Ghamdi compared this “attack” to the “takfeeri fatwas” (edicts accusing Muslims of infidelity) of two decades ago.

“When there are warnings of the danger of these sort of things, there is always someone who will justify it and one ends up in a tangle of fiqh [jurisprudential] arguments,” Al-Ghamdi wrote. “In the end, the Ministry of Health might well back down in the face of this stronger current of thought.”
I can sort of understand a Sharia rule against images of living beings. Weird, yes; extreme, yes; but at least it is a rule that probably has some sort of Quranic basis.

But what I cannot understand is the contradiction between the two bolded statements: if the pictures are forbidden, even in houses, why are they allowed to be distributed outside mosques?

Moreover, if pictures of living beings is forbidden in Sharia, why do Saudi newspapers have such pictures? Are newspapers forbidden to be read at home?

And notice the last paragraph. Saudi society - even a person who one would expect would fight the hardest for freedom of expression - has apparently surrendered to the veto power of the most extreme versions of Islam.