TEL AVIV — In a highly unusual ruling, a judge in Lebanon has ordered three Muslim men to learn passages from the Quran by heart that praise and glorify the Virgin Mary after they were found guilty of insulting the religious figure, according to a report by the Al Arabiya television network.
Lebanese law allows for prison sentences on charges of insulting religions, but the judge decided instead to order the three to learn the relevant Quranic passages.
According to the report, the unusual punishment got a positive response from the Lebanese public and even received support from Lebanon’s Muslim Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his predecessor Najib Miqati.
Both wrote that the sentence is evidence of the judge’s wisdom because her decision gave preference to the teaching of shared values over punishment.
Other ministers also praised the judge and noted that beyond the cultural nature of the ruling, “It is a precedent-setting ruling that opens a window for other creative judgements in order to solve social problems and deal with religious extremism.”
When the three appeared before the judge Jocelyne Mata in the city of Amshit located 37 kilometers north of the capital of Beirut, Mata decided that the three must learn the verses “to learn the values of tolerance in the religion of Islam and Islam’s love for the virgin. The law is a school and it can’t be reduced just to prisons.”
The three were then released, but only after reciting the verses they were ordered to learn.
Meanwhile, tensions were high in Saudi Arabia after a senior member of the kingdom’s Council of Clerics claimed that Muslim women are not required to wear the Abaya robes that cover them from head to foot.
Sheikh Dr. Abdullah Mutlaq said on a television program that the intent of the religious law is to protect and cover women’s bodies with no suggestion at all that this be done specifically with the Abaya. The cleric even insisted that the characteristics and dress codes of every society should be taken into account and adjustments should be made, meaning that people shouldn’t be forced to wear the same clothing like the Abaya and the hijab.