RIYADH - Saudi Arabia's grand mufti has banned the practice of forcing women to marry against their will, calling for the imprisonment of violators, the official SPA news agency reported Tuesday.
"Forcing a woman to marry someone she does not want and preventing her from wedding that whom she chooses ... is not permissible" under Islamic law, said Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, who heads the Council of Senior Ulema (scholars), the kingdom's highest religious authority.
"Anyone who insists on forcing a woman ... to marry against her will is disobeying God and His prophet (Mohammed)," he said.
The top Muslim cleric said anyone who does not give up this pre-Islamic practice "should be punished by imprisonment and should not be released until he drops his demand, which contravenes the provisions of sharia," or Islamic law.
Violators should be kept behind bars until they commit to "refrain from aggressing the woman, her legal tutor and the man she marries, and until the chief of their tribe or another influential member of the tribe guarantees that they will comply with this and refrain from aggression," Sheikh added.
Saudi women are required to cover from head to toe in public in the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom, where they are also banned from driving.