It seems even the Islamic world is getting tired of the proliferation of ridiculous fatwas, and is considering regulation! This is a classic example of why religion and government don't mix.
National Public Radio (NPR) had a great story this morning, Concerns Grow Over Proliferation of Fatwas. These rulings by muftis, govern what is permissible under Islam and what is forbidden. Traditionally, a man would seek guidance, on a personal level, from a mufti, when he had some difficult question that wasn't covered by the day-to-day teachings.
But an "explosion" of fatwas on television and the internet has Muslims' heads spinning. The rulings are contradictory, confusing, and sometimes just bizarre. The most widely ridiculed was the "breastfeeding fatwa." Islamic law prohibits women from working alongside unrelated men, but a wet-nurse who breastfeeds an infant is considered related to that child, and is allowed to be alone with that man even when he becomes an adult. So a cleric from the highly-respected Al Azhar University issued a fatwa declaring that a woman would be allowed to work with men if she breast-fed each of them five times first!
The root of the problem goes to the very heart of why religion and government shouldn't mix: Who gets to be a mufti? And even if you can ensure that every mufti is qualified, you're left with a government with no checks and balances, no possibility of democratic control. Even if Islamic law was fair and good, the mufti would become an aristocracy, and history has shown that aristocracies inevitably become corrupt, either from within, or because the immoral and power-hungry are attracted to the job.
In an attempt to curb this comic situation, an Egyptian lawmaker is going from bad to worse: He is proposing that the government should regulate who can become a mufti. So Islam is already dictating law to the faithful, and now the government wants to regulate Islam.
Hey, I have a better idea. Why not keep the two completely separate? How about if the government is kept completely secular, and stays out of Islam's business. And in return, Muslims will stay out of the business of governing, and go back to teaching Islamic principles?