Al Azhar, in Cairo, is considered by many to be one of the oldest and most prestigious Islamic universities in the world. The study, written by Al Azhar's Dr. Sayed Zayed, and entitled (in translation), "The Misguided Fatwas of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis," reveals a great deal about how Islamists view women.
The Egyptian newspaper Al Masry Al Youm summarized some of the Al Azhar study's main findings and assertions on November 15 in a article entitled (in translation), "Muslim Brotherhood fatwas: A woman swimming is an 'adulteress' and touching bananas is 'forbidden.'"
According to the report, "fatwas issued by both groups [Brotherhood and Salafis] regard women as strange creatures created solely for sex. They considered the voices of women, their looks and presence outside the walls of their homes an 'offence.' Some went as far as to consider women as a whole 'offensive.'"
The study addressed 51 fatwas issued during the rule of ousted president Mohamed Morsi. Among them, the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis "permitted wives to lie to their husbands concerning politics," if the husband forbids her from being supportive of the Islamists or their agenda; she may then, through taqiyya [dissimulation] -- a Muslim doctrine that permits deceit to empower Islam -- still be supportive of the Islamists while pretending to be against them.
The study similarly revealed that some of these fatwas decreed that women who swim in the sea are committing "adultery" -- even if they wear a hijab: "The reason behind this particular fatwa, from their point of view, is that the sea is masculine [as with many other languages, Arabic nouns are gender specific, and "sea" is masculine], and when the water touches the woman's private parts she becomes an 'adulteress' and should be punished."
Moreover, "Some of these fatwas also forbade women from eating certain vegetables or even touching cucumbers or bananas," due to their phallic imagery, which may tempt women to deviate.
Other fatwas decreed that "it is unacceptable for women to turn the air conditioning on at home during the absence of their husbands as this could be used as a sign to indicate to neighbors that the woman is at home alone and any of them could commit adultery with her."
One fatwa suggested that marriage to ten-year-old girls should be allowed to prevent girls "from deviating from the right path," while another prohibited girls from going to schools located 25 kilometers away from their homes.
Another stated that a marriage is annulled if the husband and wife copulate with no clothes on.
These fatwas also sanctioned the use of women and children as human shields in violent demonstrations and protests, as these are considered jihads to empower Islam.
Even slavery was permitted, according to the study: "the people who issued these fatwas demanded the enactment of a law allowing divorced women to own slaves," presumably to help her, as she no longer has a man to support her.
An earlier report (summarized in English here) listed some other fatwas issued by the Brotherhood and Salafis during Morsi's tenure: advocating for the destruction of the pyramids and sphinx; scrapping the Camp David Accords; killing anyone protesting against ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi (which happened and is one of the main charges against the imprisoned Brotherhood leadership); forbidding Muslims from greeting Christians; forbidding Muslim cab drivers from transporting Christian priests (whose clothing makes them identifiable); forbidding TV shows that mock or make light of Islamists; and forbidding women from marrying any men involved with the former Mubarak government.
Predictably, the Al Azhar study criticizing the Brotherhood and Salafi fatwas concludes by saying that only al Azhar, which styles itself as a moderate institution, is qualified to issue fatwas. Of course, one of the most sensational of all fatwas -- "adult breastfeeding," which called on women to "breastfeed" male acquaintances, thereby making them relatives and justifying their mixed company -- was issued by Al Azhar, but later retracted. It is apparently this retraction that makes Al Azhar seemingly more moderate than the Brotherhood.
Meanwhile, the Salafis -- who, in light of the Brotherhood's ouster have become Islam's standard bearers there -- continue successfully to push for strict interpretations of Sharia law in Egypt's new constitution.
Raymond Ibrahim, author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians (Regnery, April, 2013) is a Middle East and Islam specialist, and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.