One bonobo's view of the world...and stuff.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Fancy a quick marriage, hen*?

Sometimes you come across something that makes you realise that public perceptions are not the whole truth.

In this vein...I've been reading up on Sharia Law. This, as I'm sure you'll know, is the various systems of judisprudence followed by Muslims. There are various in different countries and/or followed by various sects, each depending on the weight they give to the aHadith, sayings, customs and practices of the prophet (peace be upon him), as reported by whichever scholars they pay attention to.

Anyway - I was struck in particular by concept in Shia sharia (the Sunnis don't buy it at all) of Nikahu’l-Mut‘ah - Temporary Marriage. Unlike in full-blown marriage, here the marriage contract includes an expiry date. Because of various other provisions, it allows for a good deal of pragmatism:

  • It is a matter between individuals (although Iranian law requires requires registration of temporary marriages).
  • Women are not bound to their husband's wishes, but may go out and work, if they wish.
  • Property rights aren't included - so women can inherit.
  • It is mustahab (recommended, but not compulsory) that the marriage contract is extended on expiry. Isn't that a great legal concept, 'it would be best if...'?
  • It can be used as a trial period, prior to marriage - much as we do, but with obvious benefits for arranged mariages.
  • Many couples choose 99 year contracts in preference for full marriage, because it gives more freedom to the woman.
  • It allows marriage between a Muslim and a Christian or Jew (but not with kaffirs - people who are not 'Peoples of the Book' ( Ahl al-Kitab)
  • It can be contracted when men and women are going to live under the same roof but not as a couple, when it would be convenient to relax the rules relating to hijab.
  • Get this...It is allowed even if it's solely for the purpose of sex! I've read that in Iran, mullahs hang around popular meeting places with printed contracts ready to go...and that they also sell condoms.

Of course, I of all people** am the last to defend any religion. I think that law should be based on secular principles...and I don't see why it has any business interfering in consensual relationships between men and women, other than to ensure that women aren't exploited. But it does show that the picture we receive of Islam as an inflexible monoculture is somewhat far from the truth. The Middle East is, in certain repects, as pragmatic and pluralistic as any region, in a "I didn't know the dog was a Catholic" *** way. And Sharia Law isn't just about chopping thieves' hands off, any more than Western secular law is about banging people up in Belmarsh on a pretext or ASBOs whereby police officers can invent the law as they go along.

* For non-Scots readers, hen = darlin'. But men are rarely refered to as cock.

**Militant Atheist Fundamentalist, leaning towards calling myself a Bright.

***Auld Mrs Murphy's dog dies, so she goes along to Father O'Toole and asks him to arrange a nice wee funeral. "Now, Bridie," says the priest, "You know that funerals are only for people. Animals don't even have immortal souls. I can't go saying a funeral mass for an animal!" "But," says Mrs Murphy, "I'd be prepared to make a sizeable donation to the parish - in cash, too." "Ah, now," says Fr. O'Toole, "You never mentioned that the dog was a Catholic.."

The Grauniad on the ENO/ADF Ghadaffi yapera (See Skinheads, apostrophes and choonz post) Or, from al-Jazeera, here.


Woodpigeon said...

Thanks for that, Ed. Another reminder to be careful about straw men, I guess.

I still feel a bit like that about the Catholic Church. The Church is hugely diverse in terms of attitude, from ultra-liberal to ultra-conservative, from socialist to conservative and from those who felt that religion was just a small part of their lives to those who use their religion almost like a life-support system. It was almost impossible to lump all Catholics into the same category and accuse them of this, that or the other.

And yet, it's done to Muslims without a second thought.

We often forget that most people just want to get on in their lives, hopefully without offending too many people and giving their loved ones as good a chance as anyone else. Why should we think the Muslim community are any different?

Hmm. Interesting alright.

Woodpigeon said...

Another interesting link, regarding the Pakistani woman who was gang-raped, and now has her own Urdu speaking blog on the BBC.

The majority of posters have been overwhelmingly supportive. Again, this kills the idea that people in those countries are uniformly anti-woman.

Edward the Bonobo said...

And then there's this article from yesterday's Grauniad:

For Saeeda Ahmed, who describes herself as a feminist, covering her hair represents strength, determination and independence. As she puts it, "It's about standing up against a culture which is seeing women as sexual objects. It also stands for a distinct identity for women which is different from men."

researchers found young women who were highly motivated and determined to achieve independence and success in their careers. In the vast majority of cases, their parents supported their ambitions. Contrary to stereotypes, 90% of Pakistani and Bangladeshi girls said their parents did not expect them to get married and have children rather than follow a career.

Yes, agreed. I get the impression that islamophobia comes from people who don't actually know any muslims. They should get out more!

Then there was a good snippet on a R4 programme last week. Safraz Manzoor was interviewing members of a Yorksire Asian cricket team. He said something like:
I suppose the wife is at home doing all the housework.
He got the response:
Behave! That's a bit old-fashioned, isn't it? :-)

Actually...I do think that the religion meme cluster tends to include denigration of women (menstruation taboos, all male clergy...etc). But then, Matthew 7:5.

Woodpigeon said...

Most Irish people have probably not met too many Muslims, and I suspect that very many Americans have not done so either. My understanding (could be wrong, usually is) is that the Muslim community in the US tends to be concentrated in high urban areas and not particularly distributed throughout the US. When I was last in the US, some of the stuff related to me about Muslims by otherwise intelligent and educated people was, frankly, fairly shocking.

Reminds me of a conversation I had with a nearest and dearest recently. "Oh, those Lituanians are not a good lot". "So, how many Lithuanians do you know?" I responded. "None" came the inevitable answer.

Coming from where I come from, with such a darn homogeneous culture* (at least until very recently), it's something I have to pay attention to the whole time.

*For Bob's sake, we still haven't forviven the Normans and the Vikings for invading...

psychocandy said...

We live about a mile from a huge Muslim community center. It's not a mosque- it's built in a regular old brick-and-mortar building- but the discreet "signage" indicates that a prayer room and reading room are available. I got a chuckle the other day out of watching a young couple walk in with their two small children, both carrying enormous Spongebob backpacks in with them. What went through my mind was "I would never have been allowed into church with that bag when I was a kid!"

Edward the Bonobo said...

In my experience, Mosques are much less formal places than churches. You go in, park your shoes by the door, do your ritual ablutions, dump your coat in the corner of the prayer room, do the facing Mecca thing, then sit around chatting with your mates. All very human.

Another of those 'Whoodathunkit' things: Cath goes to a gym where there are lots of Muslim women. She sees them in the sauna, she sees tham in the changing rooms with thair fancy lingerie and fashionable designer labels...and then she sees some of them trotting out in full burka.

Anonymous said...

در اجرای طرح ارتقای امنيت اجتماعی که از ابتدای ارديبهشت‌‏ماه آغاز شده, برخورد با مالکان خودروهای حامل افراد بدحجاب در دستور کار پليس قرار گرفته است، بر اساس اين طرح خودروهای حامل فرد بدحجاب يا خودروهايی که زنان بدحجاب راننده آن هستند، توسط ماموران اجرای طرح امنيت اخلاقی يا ماموران راهنمايی و رانندگی توقيف و به پارکينگ منتقل می‌‏شوند.
به گزارش خبرنگار ايلنا, نيروی انتظامی با اين توجيه که حضور فرد بدحجاب در خودرو از جرائم مشهود محسوب می‌‏شود، نسبت به برخورد با خودروهای حامل فرد بدحجاب اقدام کرده و راساً به توقيف خودروها می‌‏پردازد.

ماموران زنا زاده پلیس راهنمایی رانندگی ایران بجای اینکه هزاران راننده که مانند حیوانات با سرعت غیر مجاز، عبور ممنوع و صدها مورد جرایم مشهود خطرناک را پیگیری کنند در برابر این جرایم سکوت می کنند و ماشین افرادی را که موهایشان پیداست توقیف می کنند!

آی کیر خوک و خر و سنده خوک و خر تو کس حضرت زهرا بنت رسول الله چون ملایان می خواهند ایرانیان مثل این فاحشه قریش باشند.
سنده سگ تو کس ننه و زن و دختر رسول الله به خاطر این قوانین مسخره و حیوانی قرآن.
سنده شیطان تو حلق محمد قرآن شد.