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In one week, two articles that can be considered amusing featured in local Saudi newspapers. The first article informed its readers that authorities had penalized and dismissed an Imam of a mosque in one of the Saudi cities for using his laptop whilst delivering a Friday sermon. The other piece of news was an extended report that affirmed that the majority of marriage officials do not ask the bride if she approves of her marriage and whether or not she accepts the conditions of marriage. Marriage officials highlighted that they only ask for the approval of the bride’s guardians, as they believe that asking the bride for her opinion would cause social embarrassment and would violate custom and traditions, despite that this would contradict Islamic law.

The first piece of news reminded us of the poor opinions expressed by some religious scholars, which prohibit telegraphs, cars, bikes, watches, radios, televisions, airplanes, learning of the English language, using the internet, and camera enabled mobile phones on the pretext that all that is new is Bida (religious practice not considered Sunna). The clear deficiency in understanding the concept of Bida is mainly what caused the spread of these kinds of religious opinions that are unacceptable and liable to criticism and mockery.

The lack of good intention when considering new developments is the reason that many people and many issues have been misjudged. The victimized laptop that belonged to the Imam was simply a “means of assistance” just like microphones, air conditioners, fans or the lights that illuminate mosques all over the world. As for the other issue of the recklessness of marriage officials who fail to ask women about their feelings on marriage in fear of violating customs and traditions or causing social embarrassment, their preference of this reason to practice or implementation of the legal right of the wife demonstrates how the true spirit of Islam remains more forgiving than the practices of pre-Islam that remain amongst us. Such practices have caused women to become members of society whose rights have been eroded and whose opinions are not considered in major decisions that directly affect this significant component of society.

The two news stories, which were published in Saudi newspapers, reflect the tragedies survived by the Islamic world where chaotic edicts spread and violations against different spectrums of society are overlooked. All these factors have resulted in the deterioration of the credibility of some religious edicts and practices. How could the Imam of a mosque be punished for using a laptop whilst marriage officials are committing errors regarding the rights of women and are not penalized or even obligated to do so?

It is exactly this kind of news that cannot be accepted or ignored. A firm stand must be taken against such absurdity that is practiced in the name of our glorious religion, Islam. A lack of knowledge about the tolerance of religion could further result in more severe violations.

What we hope for is that such violations are dealt with equally and firmly, as such infringement has crossed the line.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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