Dubai: A 790-word opinion article by a female Saudi writer, Nadine Al Bdair, might start a fierce legal and social confrontation between traditionalists and reformists.
In her weekly article published on December 11 in the Egyptian newspaper Al Masri Al Youm, Nadine cynically urged religious scholars to issue a verdict allowing women to marry four men simultaneously to equate them with men in the Sharia, a move that was considered by many Muslims as blasphemous and a blunt call to wreck the foundations of the religion.
Her argument was that women could now marry more than one man thanks to scientific developments.
"Traditionalists argue that Islam forbids women to marry more than one man at once to determine the fatherhood of the child in case the woman becomes pregnant. This argument has now collapsed because modern science can identify the father of any child through DNA testing," she said.
Nadine, a Dubai-based Saudi journalist, who started her career as an opinion writer in a number of Saudi and Gulf newspapers, has lived in Dubai, Cairo and Washington. She also works as a presenter of a TV show at the Virginia-based Al Hurra TV Arabic Channel. Nadine's weekly programme, Mosawat, that translates into equality, focuses on issues related to women's rights in the Arab world.
Lawyer Khalid Fouad Hafez, who is also the secretary general of the People Democratic Party in Egypt, filed a complaint against Nadine and Magdi Al Galad, editor-in-chief of Al Masri Al Youm, for his role in publishing the opinion article in the newspaper.
In a telephone interview, Hafez told Gulf News the literal meaning of the article is blasphemous and includes a call for an immoral act, which, he stressed, is a violation of the Egyptian criminal code.
He said the case was filed at the public prosecutor office on December 15 under the number of 21663.
"I am waiting for the decision of the public prosecutor in order to start legal investigations in the case," he said.
"Regardless of the nationality of the writer and the place of her residency, the prosecutor has to take action against a crime committed in Egypt and has to do whatever is possible to bring the perpetrators to justice," he said.
Hafez believes that Egyptians have every right to secure the society against Nadine's call to ‘legalise adultery' and allow women to marry four husbands at the same time.
"People who have little knowledge about Islam might be seduced to think that Islam permits polygamy for women based on the advancement of science and DNA test technology according to [Nadine's] call," Hafez said.
This a crime and unless Nadine repents it in the same newspaper, he said the law must take action to protect the society. Hafez said he has never been against freedom of expression. He said he had volunteered to defend many journalists in the past in court cases.
"I am known amongst journalists as the ‘lawyer of journalists'. I represented journalists in courts free-of-charge in a number of major cases in the past and won verdicts in their favour. In this particular case which I filed against [Nadine], I would not have reacted this way if Nadine limited her call to expressing her own views without calling for fatwa to alter the religion in accordance with her sexual desires," he said.
Gulf News contacted Nadine to comment on the complaint filed against her in Egypt and if she was willing to appear in courts to defend her views, but she declined to comment.
Staff members at Al Hurra TV in Dubai and in Washington, who were reached for a comment on the case refused to give an official statement.
A senior official from Al Hurra told Gulf News on condition of anonymity that the Nadine issue this time is related to her activities outside Al Hurra and the station has nothing to do with it.
"We will review the level Al Hurra would support [Nadine] once the legal action starts against her," he said.
Salwa Al Lubani, a female Jordanian writer based in Cairo, told Gulf News that she believes Nadine has the right to discuss any issue and the society has the right to discuss the points being highlighted.
"Filing a case against [Nadine] or any other writer is inappropriate and such a move in the 21st century reflects the rise of fanatics in the Muslim world. In the 60s and 70s [of] the past century, writers [had] more freedom of expression than we have nowadays.
"I read [Nadine's] articles and I have a feeling that she sometimes expressed her views in a confrontational manner that diverts her aim from the main course, but this is not an excuse to refer [Nadine] or any other writer to courts.
"We have crisis in the Arab and Islamic world and we should work together to resolve them before they hit the nerve of the society which is about to explode."