Police in Canada are investigating the distribution of flyers depicting the prophet of Islam, Mohammed, taking the virginity of his nine-year-old wife Aisha as a hate crime, as reported by CIJ News.
The flyer is one of a series of four, which were put in mailboxes in Edmonton, Alberta and could be categorized as an “anti-Islam bias crime.”
The news outlet was told by the government’s prosecutor that the flyer in question met the criteria of a hate crime because of its pornographic content, among other reasons.
Yet, as CIJ points out, Canadian Muslim scholar Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, an imam and the chancellor of the Islamic Online University says, “If a Muslim man in his 50s, even today, wanted to marry a young woman who was 9 or 10, she reached puberty, it is legitimate,” he said.
In a lecture given a few years ago (see video below) Philips explains that unlike European countries that he says set many different ages from 12-18 as legitimate for a girl to marry, Islam holds that the “dividing line” is puberty.
However, a look at the legal age of marriage for girls from the countries he mentions – France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain – shows that every country sets the age of 18, allowing girls between 16-17 to marry only with the consent of a court and, in most cases, both of her parents.
Philips argues when Mohammed married Aisha, a person who lived until 35 was considered to have reached old age. Girls matured earlier and were primed for marriage at young ages.
“So where today you can find a woman in her 20s studying in University, she still does not how to cook, she can’t iron, you know, she’s basically a baby, so going to university, I mean, there is something in those days that is inconceivable,” he concedes.
Still, he argues that once a woman has begun to menstruate, she is a legitimate candidate for marriage.
PhiIips’ views do not differ from those of many contemporary imams steeped in traditional Islam. However, just as Philips points out, that women today live longer and are raised in a different culture — where they can be educated in subjects not connected to household chores – it should be a given that a young girl should not be married simply because she has reached the age of puberty.
But, as Philips says, “The fact that the world is not doing it, and most places people are not doing it, it doesn’t mean that it no longer is permissible. No. It remains.”
Moreover, Philips makes a point to contrast the Islamic view of marriage with that of pedophilia, saying that because the “couple” is engaged in the institution of marriage, it is not considered child abuse.
However, what separates marriage from abuse is not the fact of the institution itself but rather the relationship that is entailed in it. That type of mutual relationship between two equal partners building a life together is not possible between a nine-year-old girl and a 50-year-old man.
Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org