The website of a top Saudi cleric who issued an edict calling for those who support co-educational environments to be put to death has been shut down on Sunday.
Shaikh Abdul-Rahman al-Barrak's website was shut down following a barrage of criticism from religious scholars in Saudi Arabia and Egypt condemning his fatwa (religious ruling) as a call for violence.
Many religious scholars in Saudi Arabia denounced Barrak's ruling, saying it was similar to rulings once issued by religious fundamentalists, or Takfiris, accusing other Muslims of apostasy and condemning them to death.
In Egypt, Sheikh Abd al-Hamid al-Atrash, former head of the fatwa council at the influential al-Azhar Institution, said Barraks' ruling was a serious one, adding that the issue of co-education should have been studied in depth before issuing such a ruling.
"Co-education is not prohibited (in Islam) at all; there is no problem with women, if dressed modestly, being at school or work side by side with men," Sheikh Atrash told Alarabiya.net.
He added that mixed gender is discouraged if women are not dressed modestly and in places where people drink alcohol and use drugs. Sheikh Atrash said even in those cases a person cannot be condemned to death; explaining that one cannot be put to death simply because he or she attended a mixed congregation in a bar or a night club.
Shaikh Barrak, 77, said in a fatwa that the mixing of genders at the workplace or in education "as advocated by modernizers" is prohibited because it allows "sight of what is forbidden, and forbidden talk between men and women."
"All of this leads to whatever ensues," he said in the text of the fatwa published on his website (albarrak.islamlight.net).
"Whoever allows this mixing ... allows forbidden things, and whoever allows them is an infidel and this means defection from Islam ... Either he retracts or he must be killed ... because he disavows and does not observe the Shariah," Barrak said.
"Anyone who accepts that his daughter, sister or wife works with men or attend mixed-gender schooling cares little about his honor and this is a type of pimping," Barrak said.
(Translated from Arabic by Mustapha Ajbaili)