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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 16, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 03
Snowmen are forbidden, Saudi cleric says
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Snowmen are forbidden, Saudi cleric says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Muslims may not build snowmen, a prominent Saudi religious scholar ruled this month.

'It is forbidden to make sculptures out of snow, even if it is for fun and entertainment,' Muslim cleric Mohamed Saleh Al Minijed said in a fatwa. 'God has given people a choice to build whatever they want, provided it is without a soul, like trees, ships, fruit, buildings and the like.'

A fatwa is a ruling by a Muslim religious authority based on the Quran, traditions about the Prophet Mohamed's teachings, and prior legal precedents. Because the Saudi government has never gotten around to codifying sharia law, fatwas issued by important religious scholars carry the weight of law.

Al Minijed's ruling was prompted by a freak snowfall in the northern part of the kingdom. Locals rushed to make snow sculptures and posted pictures of them to their social media accounts, earning the wrath of Saudi religious authorities.

Al Minijed's fatwa drew mocking Twitter comments, translated into English on Global Voices website. In a series of Tweets, Palestinian blogger Iyad El-Baghdadi noted sarcastically that 'According to 'Islamic' buzzkill Al-Munjid, making snowmen is 'an imitation of the West' and is close to idolatory... Coz you know, our faith is so weak that if we build a snowman we may mistake it for a god and start worshipping it or something. #facepalm...

'I also love the part about how we should imitate the West in good things like science & technology, not bad things like... um, snowmen,' El-Baghdadi concluded.

Saudi women are allowed to use Twitter - even though they may not drive, use public transportation, or go to public places unaccompanied - and predictably they were exasperated by Al Minijed's fatwa.

'Everything in this country is banned,' a woman going by the name 'Ms Abeer' Tweeted. 'It will eventually melt. You just don't want us to have fun. Now we should make headless snowmen so that they become happy.'

'What? Who issued the fatwa that building snowmen is forbidden?' another woman added. 'Have mercy on us please. You have forbidden everything. Religion is not like this. And what's the harm in it for you to forbid it. It is just entertainment.'

Another Twitter user, Fashion Slave, accused Al Minijed of trying to steal headlines.

'While some people are busy with what's happened in France and others with the Golden Globe, suddenly a clergyman comes up with a fatwa which says that building snowmen is forbidden,' Fashion Slave Tweeted. 'Get back into your hole. You just want to steal the limelight.'

Al Minijed, whose name is sometimes rendered Al Munajjid in English, is said by Al Jazeera to be one of the most respected Saudi religious scholars, but that has not stopped him from making absurd statements in the past.

In December 2004, Al Minijed blamed the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami on Christmas, which occurred the day before.

'The problem is that the [Christian] holidays are accompanied by forbidden things, by immorality, abomination, adultery, alcohol, drunken dancing, and ... and revelry,' he wrote in horror.

'Why do we want to be like them, with their holidays, their forbidden things, and their heresy?'

In 2008 he issued a fatwa condemning Western cartoons, in which he called on Muslims to kill Mickey Mouse.

'According to Islamic law, the mouse is a repulsive, corrupting creature,' Al Minijed wrote.

'How do you think children view mice today - after Tom and Jerry? Even creatures that are repulsive by nature, by logic, and according to Islamic law have become wonderful and are loved by children. Even mice. Mickey Mouse has become an awesome character, even though according to Islamic law, Mickey Mouse should be killed in all cases.'

Al Minijed has also ruled that hacking websites is forbidden 'because God has forbidden spying,' but hacking Jewish sites is permitted as long as Muslims are at war with Israel.

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