Scuffling over Sharia in Egypt. From AFP, with thanks to Mathew:
CAIRO -A fatwa issued by Egypt’s top religious authority, which forbids the display of statues has art-lovers fearing it, could be used by Islamic extremists as an excuse to destroy Egypt’s historical heritage.
Egypt’s Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, the country”s top Islamic jurist, issued the religious edict which declared as un-Islamic the exhibition of statues in homes, basing the decision on texts in the hadith (sayings of the prophet).
Intellectuals and artists argue that the decree represents a setback for art — a mainstay of the multi-billion-dollar tourist industry — and would deal a blow to the country”s fledgling sculpture business.
The fatwa did not specifically mention statues in museums or public places, but it condemned sculptors and their work.
Still, many fear the edict could prod Islamic fundamentalists to attack Egypt’s thousands of ancient and pharaonic statues on show at tourist sites across the country.
“We don’t rule out that someone will enter the Karnak temple in Luxor or any other pharaonic temple and blow it up on the basis of the fatwa,” Gamal al-Ghitani, editor of the literary Akhbar al-Adab magazine, told AFP.
Wave of criticisms
Gomaa had pointed to a passage from the hadith that stated: “Sculptors would be tormented most on Judgment Day,” saying the text left no doubt that sculpting was “sinful” and using statues for decorating homes forbidden.
Gomaa’s ruling overturned a fatwa issued more than 100 years ago by then moderate and highly respected mufti Mohammed Abdu, permitting the private display of statues after the practice had been condemned as a pagan custom.
Abdu’s fatwa had “closed the issue, as it ruled that statues and pictures are not haram (forbidden under Islam) except idols used for worship,” Ghitani pointed out.
Novelist Ezzat al-Qamhawi said Gomaa’s ruling would “return Muslims to the dark ages.”…
The wave of criticisms against the fatwa has put clerics on a collision course with intellectuals and artists, who say that such edicts only reinforce claims — particularly in the West — that Islam is against progress.
Some, including Sayed, compared Gomaa’s edict to a similar one issued by the former fundamentalist rulers of Afghanistan, the Taleban, that led to the destruction of statues of the Buddha despite an international outcry.
Mainstream Islamic scholars, including Egypt’s then mufti, Nasr Farid Wasel, and the controversial Qatar-based Islamic scholar, Yussef al-Qaradawi, all condemned the Taleban’s actions in March 2001.
But Qaradawi joined Gomaa in declaring that statues used for decoration are “haram” or un-Islamic.
“Islam proscribed statues, as long as they symbolise living entities such as human beings and animals,” Qaradawi said on an Islamic website.
“Islam proscribed all that leads to paganism or smells of it, statues of ancient Egyptians included,” he added.
The only exception, he said, was “children’s toys.”…
In another fatwa in May 2001, Wasel ruled that beauty pageants in which women appear half-naked in front of panels of male judges are haram. The authorities played deaf and Egypt continues to host them.
Wasel slapped a fatwa on watching solar eclipses and another on bullfights, but refused to support rights activists in their campaign to outlaw female genital mutilation.