New French Muslim chief on the “virginity lie” case

June 24, 2008

CFCM head Mohammed Moussaoui (r) and Fouad Alaoui (l), 22 June 28/Gonzalo FuentesMohammed Moussaoui, the newly elected head of France’s Muslim council CFCM, has lost no time in criticising the case of a Muslim husband who had his marriage annulled because his wife had lied about being a virgin. The “virginity lie” case caused uproar in France, where critics warned against letting religious issues creep into civil law. Under public pressure, Justice Minister Rachida Dati (herself a Muslim who had a marriage annulled), dropped her original positive assessment and had the decision overturned. The couple remains married until September, when the case will be considered again.

Asked about the case, Moussaoui told the Paris daily Le Figaro: “These people confuse customs and religion. Chastity is recommended for the man and the woman, but it is not a condition for a Muslim marriage. A man loves a women as she is, virgin or not.”

National Muslim leaders in France were notably silent about the issue when it flared up. One of the few who did say anything, Fouad Aloui of the Union of French Islamic Organisations (UOIF), was the main rival to Moussaoui in the recent election as CFCM president. All he said was: “This is not a religious case. It is a legal decision based on the law, so it is up to the judge to decide.” That sounds like an indirect approval of the decision, although it must be said he sounded quite reluctant to talk about it at all (here France Info audio in French).

A bride waiting for her wedding, 14 Feb 2008/Shannon StapletonIf the CFCM does get more active, as Moussaoui has pledged to do, it might be logical to call him to testify at the appeal. That could be interesting because his statement could be interpreted in two ways. By saying a preference for virgins is a custom and not based on Islam, he could be called by the defence lawyer who argued religion should play no role in the court’s deliberations. But by saying virginity is not a condition for a Muslim marriage, he could equally testify for a prosecutor arguing the man had no right to an annulment based on the idea that virginity was an “essential quality” of a bride.

The appeal is coming up in late September. Watch this space.

2 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

So is this man so special as to deserve a virgin? It would be interesting to see his history with other women or his web browsing! I don’t think there is much love in his petty little self-centered heart.

Another victim of narrow thinking.

Neil in Atlanta

Posted by Neil Barr | Report as abusive

Because the spouses are Muslims, many people seem determined to ignore the basic principle involved, which, from the point of view of secular civil law has NOTHING to do with religion. This is not about Islam or any other religion and the legal basis of the request by the husband to have the civil authorities declare the civil contract of marriage null and void is not directly founded in religion. The law would be the same if the parties were atheists. According to the news reports, the women has admitted that she lied about her virginity because she knew that her virginity was an important consideration for the man in deciding whether or not to marry her. She committed a civil fraud by lying about a matter that was for the other party to the marriage contract an essential condition. Since the man’s decision to marry was fraduently induced, the contrat is null and void. Matrimony (whether Muslim, Christian or Jewish) may be a rite of religion, but marriage as a civil contract registered by the State and creating particular rights and obligations for the contracting parties is NOT a religious matter in a secular State. Some have said that since both the man and woman no longer wish to be married, they should apply to the civil courts for an ordinary divorce. There may be unjust consequences if they take that approach. If there is an annulment, the marriage never existed (legally speaking) and on new obligations are incombent on the parties. If there is a divorce, there may well be financial repercussions, such as division of property, lump-sum settlement payment, partition of public and private pension plan benefits, etc. Since the woman admittedly committed fraud by using false pretenses to induce the man into marriage, a contract he would have otherwise refused, there was obviously no “meeting of the minds”, a requirement in law for a contract to be valid. The annulment order was proper and it is really a shame that the French Justice Ministry as set it aside and forced a rehearing. Whether you or I would consider virginity (or any other criterion) relevant to marriage is beside the point. If the woman said nothing before the marriage and the man had never inquired as to her virginity before the marriage, it would be impossible under secular civil law for him to seek an annulment if the later found out that she was not a virgin when he married her. As some religious scholars have mentioned, even in Islamic law, in that case, the marriage would have been valid since non-chasity is not in absolute impediment to Muslim marriage.

Posted by Ben E | Report as abusive

[...] be no split’ (Ruth Gledhill) Confusion over handshake issue at Irish awards (Indigo Jo Blogs) New French Muslim chief on the “virginity lie” case (Tom Heneghan, Faith World) China demolishes mosque over Olympic row (Reuters, Times of India) End [...]