BMSD Take On Gender Mixing Death Fatwa Cleric

British Muslims for Secular Democracy (BMSD) is alarmed and disappointed to hear that Abdul Rehman al-Barrak, a cleric who is highly regarded in the Saudi religious establishment, had issued the following fatwa on his website regarding mixing between the sexes:

“And whoever permits this mixing  – and if it leads to these impermissible things – has permitted these forbidden acts, which means that he becomes an apostate, so he should be made aware of his mistakes and given a chance to repent or else it is obligatory to kill him.  Anyone who accepts that his daughter, sister or wife works with men or attends mixed-gender schooling cares little about his honour and this is a type of pimping.”

This fatwa appears to be linked to the culmination of months of clerical opposition to the opening of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in September 2009.  As the first academic institution in Saudi Arabia that is not gender-segregated, it represents a significant milestone in terms of the equitable treatment of men and women, which has been welcomed across the Muslim world.  We are concerned at the Saudi clerics’ institutionalised resistance to King Abdullah’s tremendously worthy initiative, as well as the ramifications of this fatwa for Muslims living in the UK.

BMSD has written an open letter to HRH Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf, the Saudi Ambassador to the United Kingdom, asking him to issue a public statement on the Saudi Embassy’s official position on this fatwa.  We believe that clerics such as Abdul Rehman al-Barrak must be held to account in an open and transparent manner:

Dr Shaaz Mahboob, Vice-Chair of BMSD, says: “It is clear that the teachings of scholars such as Abdul Rehman al-Barrak have a significant influence on millions of Muslims across the world.  Student Islamic societies at certain British universities routinely implement gender segregation at public events.  We believe it is completely disproportionate for clerics to seek to enforce wholesale segregation in workplaces and educational establishments.  Further, it is beyond reprehensible for Abdul Rehman al-Barrak to denounce supporters of mixed-gender environments – including millions of Muslim parents whose children attend mixed-sex schools – as “apostates,” and to pronounce the death penalty as a suitable punishment.”

Notes to the editors:

  1. bmsd is made up of a group of Muslim democrats of diverse ethnic and social backgrounds, who support a clear separation between religion and the State.
  2. bmsd’s mission statement:   “To promote civic engagement, social inclusion, responsible citizenship and good governance particularly within constituent Muslim communities of Britain; in order to build an understanding of the shared values between all citizens to enable them to live in an inclusive, pluralist, secular and confident Britain.”
  3. bmsd claims no mandate or false representative status. Our primary concern is democratic engagement not detailed theological analysis or debate. The level and depth of commitment to the doctrinal core and orthodoxy of the faith varies among Muslims as much as it does in members of other faith groups. bmsd founders wish to create a platform for alternative, diverse Muslim views, essential for a progressive, multi-layered, democratic identity that is not in conflict with itself or fellow citizens.
  4. For details please visit