Ramallah: Connecting online with members of the opposite sex with the aim of marriage has been approved for residents of the Palestinian territories by the Palestinian Higher Fatwa Council.

The Higher Fatwa Council issued on Tuesday a fatwa, a religious edict, that is expected to influence the dynamics of how relationships between males and females in the Palestinian territories are formed and develop, given that the genders will now be allowed to connect via the internet for the purpose of marriage.

However, while Fatwa No 108 allows Palestinian males and females to connect online, it also urges them to adhere to the ethical standards of Palestinian society.

Sociologists and social workers said that the Fatwa will have tremendous social impact on life in Palestine and will affect the entire society.

“Despite this fatwa, Palestinian customs and traditions will be maintained as families will stick to the traditions even though the religion has officially authorised connection between sexes,” said Dr Omar Ayad, who heads the Sociology and Social Work Department at Al Najah National University in an interview with Gulf News.

“Religion and customs will clash. Customs will however prevail as Palestinian families and conservative Palestinian society will not easily accept such a Fatwa and put it in place.”

“Connection between sexes via the internet has become acceptable in religious terms, but is traditionally rejected. The entire situation in society may change for a great portion of the Palestinian public,” he said. “With the existence of this fatwa many people will accept connection between sexes.”

Ayad said that the concept of “connection for the purpose of eventual marriage” is vague and open to various interpretations. “Connection can be controlled in the beginning but after a very short while, there will be no chance to control connection,” he said, maintaining that things should be handled just the way they are.

“Males will blame females for not connecting via the internet and the social networks under the argument that after Islam had authorized it, why should you go against it?” he said.

He warned that the Palestinian families will confront serious problems as a result of this fatwa, but believes that families will primarily adhere to the traditions which ban any kind of illegitimate connection between the sexes.

Ayad said that in many ways the fatwa has come too late as the sexes already are connected via the internet. “With the fatwa and without it, males and females are connecting, but the fatwa has given legitimacy to the practice,” he said.

The Higher Fatwa Council urged men and women to connect via the internet if there was a necessity and for the talk between the man and woman to be limited to arranging their marriage and future. The fatwa instructs the woman to avoid providing a physical description or show herself on a camera. Meanwhile, in Hamas-run Gaza, the Higher Sharia Judicial Council has categorically rejected and criticised the fatwa, labelling it as “a source of vice and dirt”.

“This Fatwa will have dramatically negative effect on the ethical standards and morals of the men and women of Palestinian society,” said Dr Hassan Al Joujou, who heads the council in Gaza.

“The Ramallah Fatwa is baseless. It is not based on any Islamic proof or religious background,” he said.