BOMBAY — Hard-line Islamic clerics in a northern Indian village have declared that a woman’s 10-year-old marriage was nullified when her father-in-law raped her — and ordered the mother of five to marry the rapist.
The fatwa, or religious edict, was issued by Darool Uloom Deoband, South Asia’s most powerful Islamic theological school known for promoting a radical brand of Islam that is said to have inspired the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The decision has outraged both Muslim and Hindu leaders and prompted a fierce debate that has dominated the front pages of national newspapers across India.
The fatwa ordered Imrana Ilahi, 28, to separate from her husband and treat him as her son because she had sex with his father.
“She had a physical relationship with her father-in-law, and it nullifies her marriage,” said Mohammad Masood Madani, a cleric at the theological school. He said it made no difference whether the sex was consensual or forced. The village council then decreed that Mrs. Ilahi would have to marry her father-in-law.
Feminists and liberal Muslims reacted with fury, staging nationwide street protests.
But Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh on June 29 supported the fatwa, saying: “The decision of the Muslim religious leaders in the Imrana case must have been taken after a lot of thought. … The religious leaders are all very learned and they understand the Muslim community and its sentiments.”