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Turkey’s main opposition party has called for a parliamentary inquiry after the country’s directorate of religious affairs said that, under Islamic law, girls as young as nine could marry.

The comments calling for underage marriage have been met with outrage from Turkish women’s groups on social media, but the directorate has insisted that it was only defining points of Islamic law.

Despite the fact that Turkey’s legal age of marriage is 18, the practice of underage weddings in religious ceremonies is widespread, according to a report in Jihad Watch.

Islamic apologists in the West might deny that the prophet Muhammad married a nine-year-old girl and raped her, but it’s true. And this “legend” has paved the way for a lawless group who believe the sexual abuse of children is within their rights, according to the tenets of Islam.

According to Dr. Abd Al-Hamid Al-‘Ubeidi, an Iraqi expert on Islamic law, “There is no minimum marriage age for either men or women in Islamic law. The law in many countries permits girls to marry only from the age of 18. This is arbitrary legislation, not Islamic law.”

There is no minimum age for marriage and girls can be married “even if they are in the cradle,” according to Dr. Salih bin Fawzan, prominent cleric and member of Saudi Arabia’s highest religious council.

Turkish law also allows 17-year-olds to marry with the consent of their parents or guardian, or 16-year-olds in exceptional circumstances with court approval. However, the current call for lowering the legal age of marriage was started by a statement on adolescence posted online by the Diyanet, which is the state body tasked with administering religious institutions and education.

According to Islamic law, the beginning of adolescence for boys is the age of 12 and for girls the age of nine, the Diyanet stated. On the same website, it said that whoever reached the age of adolescence had the right to marry.

Thirty MPs of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) called on the government to launch an investigation into the practice of child marriage.

“The Turkish Civil Code clearly states that adulthood begins at the age of 18. Early marriages violate children’s rights, women’s right’s, human rights. As CHP MPs we ask parliament to investigate child marriages,” tweeted Murat Bakan, CHP’s MP for Izmir.

In a later statement, the Diyanet changed its course, saying that it was only defining Islamic law and that it did not actually approve of early marriages.

Correspondents say that, despite the directorate’s assurances, distrust of the body still remains among secular groups.

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