Emirates: Couple wed on Skype, arrested for illicit relation

Love in the time of internet in conflict with law, traditions

08 January, 12:44

(ANSAmed) - Dubai, January 8 - He is a 39-year-old Pakistani cleric and she is a 19-year-old student who lives in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). They got regularly married on Skype under Islamic law with a person who performed the wedding and two witnesses. Three months later they consummated the marriage but the father of the bride has reported the man to Emirates authorities claiming he raped his daughter.

This peculiar love tale in the time of internet had a not so unexpected ending. The rape charges against the imam were dropped but the two lovers were jailed for having consensual extra-marital sex, which is a crime in the UAE. Though the wedding has become legal in Pakistan it is not considered valid by judges in the Emirates. The court charged with the case, however, has not issued a verdict yet.

The case has a precedent, though in a different country. In 2007 the influential conservative theological school of Darul Ulum DeoBand in India issued a fatwa (edict) recognizing web-cam marriages as legal provided the ceremony is performed in front of witnesses as provided by Islamic law.

The story shows how Islamic society - which is strongly embedded in the region's traditions - is going through a technological evolution which cannot be stopped, as proven by the Arab influence seen on global platforms like Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Twitter.

Last November police in Dubai had cracked down on online weddings, revealing how frequently young people used the internet to meet each other in spite of the traditional use of match makers for this purpose.

Though 74% of UAE citizens use the internet, Umm Seud, a third-generation match maker does not feel threatened by the competition. 'Internet has no credibility', she said. 'It makes lies easier and it is too cold', she noted, proud of her 70 clients a week, 50 of whom will on average get married thanks to her, she claimed.

Relations are however moving outside traditions towards the broader, freer confines of the internet in spite of resistance from local societies. This is also visible with the growing number of online sexual crimes according to police data.

(ANSAmed)
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