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Draft law criminalizes issuing unauthorized fatwas
Published in Daily News Egypt on 03 - 03 - 2009

CAIRO: The People's Assembly's proposals and complaints committee drafted a new law criminalizing issuing a fatwa without a special license.
The draft law imposes a three-year jail sentence to any unauthorized person issuing a fatwa, and is only applicable to Egyptians.
It also stipulates that the Islamic Research Center and Dar Al Ifta be the only legal authorities to issue the aforementioned license.
Sheikh Al-Sayed Abdel Maqsoud Askar, member in the PA's religious affairs committee, told Daily News Egypt that the draft law was devised entirely by the proposals and complaints committee and was not discussed in the committee of legislative and constitutional affairs or the religious affairs committee.
On his part, Askar opposes the draft law, explaining that it stands against Islamic scholars' right to voice their opinion on Islamic issues.
Askar alleges that Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawy did not approve the draft law, adding that he too "objects to imposing jail sentences as punishment.
He placed the blame on the Islamic Research Center, accusing it of "inadequacy.
"If the Islamic Research Center [focused on] its initial and most important job - addressing Islamic concerns and issuing fatwas - there would be no need for a new law, Askar said.
On the other hand, Ibrahim Negm, Dar Al-Ifta's media spokesperson, told Daily Ne0ws Egypt that they have not been informed of the draft law, but rather heard about it from the media.
He said Dar Al-Ifta did not receive any official memo from the PA with regards to the new proposed law neither did the PA invite the Grand Mufti or any representative from Dar Al-Ifta to attend the committee's discussions on the proposed law.
Negm did however explain that Dar Al-Ifta advocates issuing rules that regulate issuing fatwas. "We are ready to cooperate with any institution to achieve this goal, he said.
The new law was proposed in the wake of a series of controversial fatwas issued by scholars deemed unqualified.
In 2007, Sheikh Ezzat Attiya, president of the Hadith (Prophet Mohamed's, PBUH, sayings) department at Al-Azhar University, issued what was labeled the "breastfeeding fatwa.
Attiya had drawn on Islamic traditions which forbid sexual relations between a man and a woman who has breastfed him to suggest that symbolic breastfeeding could be a way around strict segregation of males and females.
Attiya was fired from his position in Al-Azhar after issuing the fatwa.

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