Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Other people's halachic problems

Fascinating article in Ha'aretz about the religious conundrums cellphones have provoked in the Muslim world:
Is it permissible to use verses from the Koran as ring tones? Is it permissible to summon the faithful to prayer via a cellular phone and is it permissible to get divorced by sending an SMS? Numerous Muslims have asked such questions, seeking religious rulings to guide them in this use of the new device. Religious scholars deliberated, and the upshot has been at least four different rulings....
Many faithful are also asking if it is permissible to turn off a cell phone that rings during prayers and whether recharging a cell phone using an outlet in a mosque is not a desecration of its sanctity.
"The cellular mosque," the successor of the "Internet mosque" is seen as a positive development in the use of the new device. The other, negative, side of the phenomenon is evident in reports of harmful use, especially devices that come with built-in cameras... For example, there was a report that three Saudi Arabian youths were sentenced to two to 12 years in jail and 1,200 lashes (combined) because they filmed the rape of a Saudi woman and relayed the images from the cell phone to the Internet. As a result of this incident, Saudi Arabia at the beginning of this year blocked the import of cell phones with cameras, but this directive is apparently being bypassed by rampant smuggling.
Young people send each other SMS messages and pornographic photos and even more common is the harassment (by phone) of young girls using cell phones and photographing women without their head-coverings at restaurants or women-only parties and then publicizing the photos on the Internet or using them for blackmail.
But here, too, there are some positive stories, such as, for example, Umm Ismail of Gaza, who told a correspondent on the popular Internet site Ilaf that she used a cell phone camera at a neighborhood wedding to photograph potential mates for her son, who has already rejected several suggestions from matchmakers.
Bits of this story sound oddly familiar....

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