RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinian Authority’s supreme religious decrees council issued a fatwa this week that said Internet dating was permissible under certain circumstances in the West Bank.
The ruling Tuesday contradicts decrees issued by more conservative Islamic scholars and was rejected by the religious establishment in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian Supreme Ifta Council acknowledged in its fatwa that social interaction via the Internet has become widespread and said, “It is impossible to avoid it or ban it completely.”
The decree said online communications between members of the opposite sex were permissible, provided they were for the purpose of marriage, and provided that both parties abide by “codes of ethics and religious directives.”
It went on to specify that such interaction must be done with the knowledge of both families and shouldn’t happen in a closed room. Women shouldn’t provide details about their appearance or share photographs of themselves, it said.
Hassan Jojo, who heads the Hamas-run Supreme Sharia Court Council in Gaza, took issue with the decree. He said if a man wants to marry a woman, he should go to her house and ask her father’s permission.
Although he said it was permissible to pursue an acquaintance online with the purpose of getting married if there was "no other means of communication," he said providing blanket permission for such connections would "ruin the moral values of young men and women."
The Internet has expanded the horizons of young people growing up in the tradition-bound Palestinian territories, many of whom are active on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
Some use international dating sites, such as LavaPlace.com, and marriages have followed from an introduction over the Web. But the women who use such sites rarely post photographs of themselves, and the very concept of Internet dating remains taboo for many Palestinian families.
“Despite this fatwa, Palestinian customs and traditions will be maintained,” said Omar Ayad, who heads the sociology and social work department at Al Najah National University in the West Bank.
“Connection between sexes via the Internet has become acceptable in religious terms, but is traditionally rejected,” he said in an interview with Gulf News.
He warned that the fatwa could create problems for families, with men pressing women to connect with them online using the argument, “After Islam had authorized it, why should you go against it?”
Plus, he said, the concept of a “connection for the purpose of eventual marriage” was vague and open to interpretation.
Abukhater is a special correspondent.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times