Snowmen banned in Saudi Arabia: five of the strangest fatwas
Previous religious rulings describe Mickey Mouse as 'one of Satan's soldiers' and insist that the Earth is flat
A prominent Saudi Arabian cleric has issued a fatwa banning the building of snowmen, following rare snowfall in the conservative Muslim kingdom.
The religious order was issued by Sheikh Mohammed Saleh al-Munajjid, a former diplomat at the Saudi embassy in Washington, who said the practice was anti-Islamic.
"Munajjid argued that to build a snowman was to create an image of a human being, an action considered sinful under the kingdom's strict interpretation of Sunni Islam," explains The Guardian.
A fatwa is an Islamic scholar's interpretation of how ancient teachings in the Koran apply to modern life, and they serve as official advice to the Islamic community when issued by a religious leader.
The interpretation of the Koran "varies widely from one scholar to the next and from one country to another, reflecting patterns of social development", and can lead to conflicting fatwas, according to the New York Times.
As well as a ban on fun in the snow, here are some more of the strangest fatwas issued by Islamic clerics:
In 2008, the same cleric described the much loved cartoon character as "one of Satan's soldiers" and proclaimed that all mice, both real and fictional, must be killed. "According to Islamic law, the mouse is a repulsive, corrupting creature," he said, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Malaysia's National Fatwa Council issued a fatwa in 2008 which was applied to "a married woman or maiden whose appearance or image is like that of a man". The director general of the organisation warned that women behaving in a masculine manner could go on to commit greater "crimes" such as lesbianism, Pink News reports.
In 2007, Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Qazi Hussain Ahmed, the leaders of Pakistan's most influential religious parties signed a fatwa against what they called the "infidel" polio vaccine. Thousands of Pakistani parents refused to let doctors give their children the life-saving vaccine because of claims that it was American plot to sterilise Muslim children, the Guardian reports.
The sun and the earth
A fatwa issued in 1993 by the supreme religious authority of Saudi Arabia, Sheik Abdel-Aziz Ibn Baaz, claimed that the Earth was flat and that the sun revolved around it. He insisted that any scientific evidence that showed otherwise was part of a Western conspiracy. "His critics often dust off this fatwa in their call for change in the conservative kingdom," according to the cleric's obituary in The Independent.