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Apparently, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a revered Shiite cleric and the Supreme Leader of Iran following the Islamic Revolution, made the following prescription for Shiite Muslim men in his book Tahrir al-Wasila:

“A man is not to have sexual intercourse with his wife before she is nine years old; whether regularly or occasionally, but he can have pleasure from her, whether by touching or holding her, or rubbing against her, even if she is as young as an infant… If a man penetrates and deflowers the infant then he should be responsible for her subsistence all her life.”

And no, that was not written some time in the 7th century, but in the 20th.

I came across the quote in an interview of the Lebanese writer Joumana Haddad, who has become renowned (and notorious) for her efforts to bring about gender equality in the conservative Arab world. The quote is included in her book I Killed Scheherazade, which has received favourable reviews from the New York Times, the BBC, and other respectable media organizations.

I have to end this post by being very clear on one thing: I have not been able to find an authoritative online translation of the Tahrir al-Wasila, much less an authoritative version with the quote actually in it. So I can’t even say I’m sure it’s in there. My point however, remains. Religiousness is no substitute for morality.

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