News briefs for week of April 19, 2010

This week, Iranian cleric declares that provocatively dressed women can cause quakes, Yemen is set to vote on a bill that bans child marriage at the end of this month, Turkey’s gay rights activists demand an apology from minister, and Saudi cleric is fired after expressing his dismay toward strict gender segregation.
A senior Iranian cleric warned that when women dress immodestly it leads to the corruption society which consequently increases the likelihood of earthquakes, reports the Associated Press. The warning follows President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s prediction from two weeks ago that an earthquake will soon strike Tehran. Ahmadinejad suggested that at least five million residents should move out of the sprawling capital. Seismologists have been concerned for over two decades that the capital could suffer a catastrophic quake due to its location over several fault lines.

In Yemen, the month began with the harrowing news of a child bride that bled to death after being forced to consummate her marriage, but it might end with a glimmer of hope for young girls with a parliamentary vote set for late April on whether to impose a minimum age for marriages. NPR reports that the legislation was first proposed after a brave young girl, Nujood Ali, walked into court by herself in 2008 and asked a judge for a divorce, which was granted within a few months. The law was passed in 2009, but soon repealed after some lawmakers called it unIslamic.

Gay rights activists interrupt a speech on gender equality in Ankara, Turkey to demand that the speaker, State Minister Aliye Kavaf, apologize for calling homosexuality a “disease that needs treatment.” Homosexuality is not a crime in Turkey, but gays feel they lack legal protection, reports the Associated Press.

An esteemed Saudi cleric, Ahmed al-Ghamdi, was fired soon after speaking in support of the intermingling of the sexes in public spaces like schools and offices, reports the Associated Press. Ghamdi explains in a two-page interview of a popular newspaper, Okaz, that the mixing of the genders is natural and was customary during the time of the prophet Mohammad. This enraged many hard-line clerics who want to maintain the status quo. While maintaining loyalty to the clerical establishment, Saudi King Abdullah, who launched a coeducational university last year, has also been stepping away from rigid traditions.

Shazia Riaz is Associate Editor of Altmuslimah.

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