Clerics fighting child bride laws in Yemen....
Culture is threatened by this law...
Yemen's most influential Islamic cleric vowed on Saturday to gather a "million" signatures to protest a draft law banning child brides, in an increasingly vocal showdown against the country's weak government which needs the support of powerful religious leaders to hold onto power.
The issue of child brides in Yemen has attracted broad international attention, most recently when a 13-year-old girl bled to death earlier this month after her 23-year-old husband allegedly tied her down and forced her to have sex with him.
The cleric, Sheik Adbul-Majid al-Zindani, said a ban on child brides "threatens our culture and society and spreads immorality." Al-Zindani is Yemen's most powerful Islamic scholar and believed by the U.S. to be a spiritual mentor of Osama Bin Laden.
Speaking at a conference at Iman University in the Yemeni capital San'a, al-Zindani called on the dozens of radical clerics and Islamic law students in the crowd to opposed the draft law.
"You have to gather a million signatures ... that supports the demands of clerics," said al-Zindani. "If the issue calls on us to gather a million protesters, we'll organize it," al-Zindani said.
Al-Zindani's calls against the ban have become increasingly strident ahead of an expected vote by Yemeni lawmakers next month on raising the marriage age to 17.
The practice of marrying young girls is widespread in Yemen, where a quarter of all females marry before they turn 15, according to a 2009 report by the country's Ministry of Social Affairs.