CAIRO: After denying news reports claiming he’d issued a fatwa forbidding Facebook, Sheikh Abdel Hamid Al-Atrash lamented the backlash of his “misinterpreted quotes, calling on the media to present opinions objectively.
When the issue was the topic of discussion in the media, he said, those who weighed in on the matter were not qualified to speak about Islam or make claims regarding the subject.
Should there be an opposing argument, Al-Atrash said, it should come from experts who are in a position parallel to his.
He said that most of the quotes criticized him, deeming him an “Islamic leader forbidding everything.
“Journalists should be honest because honesty is the key to success, he said.
Al-Atrash, the former head of the fatwa commission at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, took center stage last week when news reports claimed he issued a fatwa forbidding the use of the popular social networking site Facebook.
He was quoted in the London-based Asharq Alawsat newspaper saying that Muslims using such sites must be considered “sinners, claiming that statistics show that divorce rates have risen since the advent of Facebook and that the social networking tool has sharply increased marital infidelity.
The fatwa was said to have been based on a study conducted by the National Egyptian Council for Social and Criminological Research. The study supposedly stated that one fifth of divorces are caused by infidelity with other Facebook members.
However, Nagwa Hussein Khalil, director of the National Egyptian Council for Social and Criminological Research, said that no such study was ever conducted.
She explained that the statistics are incorrect and unrealistic because these results only mean that the center had access to very private information.
“For us to reach such findings/statistics, it would mean that we went to every home in the country and asked couples if they are cheating on their spouses – people wouldn’t just share their secrets of being unfaithful with anyone, a spokesperson from the council’s PR office, said.
Al-Atrash said that while he is not against technological development and that Islam does not impede development, he maintains that there is a harmful side to these new technologies that cannot be denied.
“There is no doubt that the television and the internet show a lot of useful as well as harmful content, he said, adding that those who are sensible are capable of determining what is useful and what is not.
“Those technological devices are like kitchen knives – if used for what they were created for then that is good, but there is no doubt that they can be used to harm others, he said.
To support his argument, Al-Atrash cited a story of a girl he met in the US. The girl, “who was a Muslim Egyptian, he emphasized, had met her husband on the internet where all she could see was a nice profile picture and fine manners.
She took a risk and traveled to marry him only to find that he is a horrible person who, after they got married, took advantage of her by stealing everything she owned and selling her jewelry. He then divorced her and she was all alone, trying to collect enough money for a flight back home.
Al-Atrash said he convinced the Islamic Center to send her money for the ticket so that she could return to Egypt. Eventually, a tourism company wanted to help her and sent her a ticket.