A Saudi cleric claims the best way for his country to prevent sexual molestation of young girls is to require them to wear burkas.
The comments, made by cleric Sheikh Abdullah Daoud, come in the wake of the Fayhan al-Ghamdi verdict. Al-Ghamdi is a Saudi cleric accused of raping and torturing his five-year-old daughter to death. On Saturday, Digital Journal reported al-Ghamdi was ordered to pay "blood money" to the slain girl's mother, but was spared a jail sentence.
Following the verdict, Manal al-Sharif, a women’s rights activist, launched the "Ana Lama" campaign via Twitter. The campaign is aimed at forcing the Saudi government to enact legislation that would criminalize violence against women and children. Under Saudi Arabia’s current Islamic law, a father cannot be executed for murdering his children, or for murdering his wife.
Daoud, whose critics have dubbed his idea the "baby burkas” campaign, made the comments in October of last year. However following the al-Ghamdi verdict, the comments are just now beginning to receive widespread attention.
During a television interview on Islamic Al-Majd TV, Daoud said wearing veils that completely covered the face would help prevent baby girls from being molested. He went on to claim that unnamed medical and security sources say there is an increase in the number of babies and young girls being molested, citing the case of a 49-year-old man accused of raping his daughter no less than 288 times as an example.
Former Saudi Board of Grievances judge, Sheikh Mohammad Al-Jzlana, is publicly criticizing Daoud for his comments, telling Al Arabiya that the comments were denigrating to Islam and Shariah and “made Islam look bad”.
Others are outraged that the cleric would resort to blaming small children for the criminal acts of adults, with Malaka Elvazgi saying:
"Burkas for babies is disturbing! Now the baby victims are blamed for men’s crimes. Allah help us stop the ignorance."
Some agree that instances of reported sexual assault against young girls within Saudi Arabia are on the increase. The reason for the increased reporting is debated however. Some believe that it is due to an actual increase in the number of assaults occurring. Others believe it is due to new child protection laws enacted in January of 2011.
Widespread reporting may continue to increase due to a new plan aimed at holding “violators of family and children law accountable”. On January 17th, Maha al-Maneef, executive manager of the Saudi cabinet's family safety organization, announced Saudi Arabia was preparing to launch a 24-hour hotline for people to report violence against children.
If incidents of child molestation is indeed on the rise in Saudi Arabia, and regardless of the reason for the increased number of reports, Daoud's comments have many saying it is irresponsible of him to place the blame on children and infants, essentially relieving the perpetrators of any personal responsibility.
While government officials and Saudi citizens are outspoken about the comments, Daoud has yet to publicly address the latest backlash.