Syrians took to social media to express their outrage after Damascus’ first Sharia judge Mahmoud Maarawi, who heads the religious court that oversees personal status issues for Syria's Sunni Muslims, the country's majority, suggested that Syrian men could marry a second wife to solve the ‘problem’ of ‘spinsterhood’ (عنوسة), a derogatory term mostly used to refer to an unmarried woman.
Speaking with state-owned newspaper Tishreen on February 5, 2017, Maarawi said it was a ‘solution’ to the fact that the Syrian women population outnumbers that of the men in regime-held areas; according to some estimates, women could comprise up to 65% of the population (although this cannot be verified).
But in Damascus, for example, the relative absence of men has been noted by many visitors and there has been a general decline in marriage rates. One activist from Homs told The Syrian Observer in May of 2016 that:
People believe the rise in spinsterhood is related to the decreasing number of young men, including those who flee abroad or who join the military forces fighting in the country, in addition to the large number who have been killed. This exacerbates the problem and negatively affects young women and families, given the social norms that stigmatize unmarried women, divorcees, or even widows.
The story was immediately picked up by pro-opposition websites such as Enab Baladi:
القاضي الشرعي الأول بدمشق يقترح الزواج بثانية للقضاء على العنوسة#عنب_بلدي #سوريا #دمشقhttps://t.co/qw5hhhKm3O
— عنب بلدي (@enabbaladi) February 6, 2017
Damascus's first Sharia judge suggests a second wife marriage to tackle the issue of spinsterhood
His statement was also mocked by supporters of the Assad regime:
انا مستعد حقق مطالب القاضي الشرعي بدمشق بس بدي بيت بالمزة فيلات غربية و محل بشام سنتر و دبابة t90
— العميد (@liongeneral19) February 7, 2017
I agree with Damascus's Sharia first judge, but I demand a house in Mazzah [an affluent neighborhood] and a shop in Sham Center Shopping and a Tank T-90.
من لم تقتله الحرب ، قتلته زوجته بعد فتوى القاضي الشرعي بدمشق .
— zouher mahmoud (@Abo_mahmoud1977) February 8, 2017
If the war didn't kill a man, his second wife will certainly do it, thanks to the judge's fatwa
A Facebook user, Ghassan Makdsi, made the argument that in most of the Middle East, the general population suffers from clerics’ involvement in ordinary citizens’ everyday lives:
مشكلة الوطن العنوسة والحلّ هو النكاح !!؟؟
المشكلة أنه مازل هناك رجال دين تتدخل في الحياة العامة للمواطن بل بالحياة المنزلية لابل بالحياة الشخصية ..
المشكلة أنه لا يزال هناك رجال دين في السلطة تفكر كما يفكر رجال الدين لدى داعش ..
المشكلة أننا نعتبر من يتولى إدارة زمام الدولة هم من الطبقة المثقفة العلمانية المدنية ..
المشكلة الأكبر للأن لم يخرج أحد للإعلام السوري ويقول له ,,سكر تمك,, فأشكالك هم من دمروا الوطن ..
المشكلة إن فتواه ليست لسد رمق المواطن السوري ولا لسد جشع التجار ولا لكبح جماح العفيشة والسارقيين ولا لمن يخطف لقاء مال .. ولا للأولاد التي تنام في شوارع البرد والموت ولا للمهجريين الذين يموتون في العراء
فتواه فقط لأجل النكاح .. القاضي لا يشغل باله إلا بالنكاح ..
The country's problem is spinsterhood and your solution is sex?
The problem is that there are still clerics intervening in the everyday life of citizens, inside their homes even in their very personal lives.
The problem is that are still religious men in power who think like the clerics of Daesh (ISIS).
The problem is that we consider that those who are in control of the state's administration are part of the educated secular class.
The biggest problem is no one from the media in Syria came out to say ‘shut up’ to those whose mentality destroyed our country.
The problem is that his fatwa is not to feed the Syrian citizen, nor to stop greedy traders, nor to reduce the number of thieves. Not for the kids who are sleeping in the cold, deadly streets, nor for the refugees who are dying outdoors.
His fatwa is only about sexual intercourse.. this what this judge cares about.
Away from religious ‘solutions’ for Syrian women, Syriatel, the main mobile provider in Syria owned by Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of Bashar Al Assad and Syria's wealthiest man, held its fourth group wedding on January 30, 2017 to marry 30 couples in Damascus.