DUBAI--The Gulf emirate of Dubai plans to appoint female muftis or Islamic scholars by the end of next year in an unprecedented step that could trigger opposition from Muslim conservatives, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.
Six Emirati women are being selected for a training program that starts early next year, The National newspaper of Dubai reported, quoting the emirate's grand mufti Ahmed al-Haddad.
Haddad issued a religious edict or ?fatwa? in February authorizing women to become muftis and in May he called on qualified candidates to apply for a training program that includes instruction in Sharia or Islamic law and legal thought.
"A woman who is learned and trained in issuing fatwas is not limited to her role of issuing fatwas that relate to women only, but rather she is qualified to issue on matters of worship, jurisprudence, morality and behavior," the paper quoted him as saying.
Haddad played down the prospect of a major backlash from religious conservatives.
"The controversy over female muftis is not necessarily over this point, but about whether or not a woman should be appointed as the grand mufti of a state. And this is not what we're trying to do at this point," he said.
Last year, Egypt appointed its first female Islamic notary with the ability to perform marriages and divorces.
Since 2006, Morocco has trained female guides known as "imams" or "mourchidates" who advise Muslims, especially in prisons, hospitals and schools.