Abuse Influenced Persons Judging
From TI_Muslims Yahoo
Group Thursday June 18, 2009
By Todd Wise, Bemidji, MN
There is quite an as yet untold story to be told
on sexual immorality as a whole. People in the West are always
critical that things are "under reported" and believe that that human
beings in Islamic country settings are the same as other human beings
around the world....which of course they are. But what happens is
you have this democratic leveler that makes us all at the same standard
as what people find in places like America. Check for yourself on
the number of STD's in Arabic settings compared to nearly every setting
in the US.... it is exponentially less. Also, adultery is surely
far less, although studies like that can always be disputed, but there
are ways to show that.
If you actually have a pedophile case in some
Arabic countries, the guy (usually a guy, but female as well) would
likely be publicly killed. It is such a heinous thing. And,
you really have to look at the "honest" Muslims within those settings.
If you go to a conservative Muslim group (of which there are many) there
is a "clean" blood line. People know the entire family of
individuals and if there was a person that had sex outside of marriage
or did something as unspeakable as sex with a child, the entire family
is at risk for all kinds of bad things. People don't want people
like that around them.
So, you have to see the
marriage at a younger age in different Muslim contexts as for what it
is. It is not the women in chains and oppressed by a male
privileged system, at least not always or not even most of the time.
There are families and young women that seek these arrangements for
various reasons., Yeah, it can be and is abused, but not near as much as
what spins in the minds of Westerners. You are talking about a
different cultural ethos.
Yeah, but it is clear that in those days people
married very young, even promised prior to the first period of a young
girl. Even today, in Bedouin communities in the Middle East many
practice as they have for thousands of years. My wife is a
Bedouin and has aunts and uncles who married first cousins (a practice
that has gone on for thousands of years) and they were married at 13 and
14 years of age.
We are shocked by it and live in a society where
"freedom" and "equality" has become indoctrinated in us and has us read
into religious texts with these lens. We are all affected by the
European Enlightenment, every person is, whether native or not.
You also have these practices in native communities. No one had
any laws about waiting till 18. The ritual of education in our
society and the laws that are in place represent values. Many of
these values are directly related to "progress" away from tribal
societies, replacement of the state with tribal kinship laws, etc.
It is highly varied, but what you are wrestling
with is purely cultural. A pedophile wouldn't have been defined by
the age or the young women that is married in those days and in
different cultural settings today, it would have been related to sex out
of marriage in particular and with children from ones own family or
another's. Because of laws in our own time, a pedophile
could be someone that has sexual relations with someone under 18 in some
places and under 16 in others. Even in these settings, as far as I
know, if the parents allow a marriage for an under aged person, there
can be a marriage (check that one though).
You always have to be careful about colonialism of
the mind on things like this. Western feminism (which springs
right out of Enlightenment ideas) is not something indigenous to other
settings, so you have to see what is the norms in that setting.
Islam has all the rules and ethics for these situations. It is
kind of a question of where you live in the end. What do you think...
I can speak from the stand point of culture.
Sexual abuse is a crime and sin by definition. But the age of a
person when they get married does not equal sexual abuse. I mean
this is not a one to one comparison, even though in certain settings the
law defines sexual contact before a certain age as "abuse."
There is also the social science research that supports strongly the
effects of the interpretation of a sexual encounter as abusive can also
be a self fulfilling prophecy for it being experienced as abusive.
What I mean to say is that there is the issue of
harm and abuse, which is not necessarily related to age.
As I mentioned, my wife is a Bedouin. In her
tribal setting her uncle, for example, married his wife at age 13.
He is around 70 years old, and his wife (who is named Aeysha by
coincidence) is around 60. He was like 27 when she was 13 when
they were married. They have 17 children! They now have over 35
grandchildren. All of their kids graduated from the university and
have kids etc.
This is very typical Bedouin lifestyle (for
traditional settings). No one even thinks of the term "abuse."
When my wife came to America she could not believe how much this word is
used for everything. It is actually related to our
post-enlightenment valorization of "equality" "freedom" independence,
etc. Abuse can be a kind of door that people "discover" who they
are and become separate and on the road to selfhood etc. There is this
whole individualism that weaves into a lot of this.... Any way, the use
of the term abuse is rampant everywhere in Western/American society.
This should not in any way excuse harm of any kind, especially sexual
abuse, it is just that there is a clouding of this topic because of the
different cultural contexts.
Just to say, my wife's uncle and here entire
family would never think anything abusive whatsoever about a marriage
for a girl of 13 to an older man. There are even cases of girls
having kids in Egypt at nine years old! As I understand Islamic
teaching, the main concern is related to marriage. Sexual conduct of any
kind belongs in a marriage. I don't think (again talk to the
experts on the Hadith) the main issue is to examine menstruation, but
the critical issue is a marriage.
This whole topic of marriage at younger ages like
this is widely recognized as abhorrent in Western society. It is
imperative that Muslims obey the laws of the places they live, so it
would seem a closed topic for people who live in places where underage
marriages are against the law. I don't know all the places, but
some younger aged marriages are allowed with the permission of a parent.
But.....and this goes back to imposing Western
cultural values on other people, you have to be able to see that the
term "abuse" can be a cultural application. For people that do not
give a privileged status to the main tumblers of Western individualism,
they also will not give much weight to marriages at younger ages,
especially when both families of the couple are for it, the young girl
wants it and the husband also. You have to reverse the perspective
in a different culture, because it could be abusive not to allow such a
marriage to take place.
Again...I am writing fast and do not want in any
way to be thought of as an expert on how to interpret the Hadith.
It sounds like you have already looked into it quite well.
The cultural point on this issue (old enough to
marry) is a bit hard to get to if it is just approached by books and
movies. I will give an example. I am a psychologist by
trade and found it remarkable the very few examples of children in
Bedouin families (this was in Jordan) who could be labeled "attention
deficit/hyperactive." The kids of Bedouins play hard and are like
children everywhere in most respects, but there is a big difference with
them culturally. Behaviorally they can become calm and focused,
they are respectful of authority, and can become undistracted.
American kids their same ages can have great difficulty doing this, and
a high percentage get put on medication just to stay in school or be
able to function adequately in their homes.
The kids in traditional Bedouin homes are also as
near reliable as adults in many ways. They are kids, yes, but they can
cook, work, and do many responsibilities that adults do. I remember
seeing a seven year old boy taking his three year old brother on a bus
trip from Amman (north) to the south, changing busses (old worn out
busses filled with people), and then going to a desert community.
No one would even think of bothering that kid.
For example, much of Jordanian society (especially
away from the rich Western influenced areas) is tribal, as tribal as any
traditional American Indian setting. Blood kinships is just a part
of the scene. Americans may have trouble remembering the name of
their grandparents, they may have been adopted and never knew their
parents, or just have very poor family connections. Not so in
these settings. The very name of any Arab Muslim goes back
seven generations. People know instantly your entire family.
This is protections because everyone knows each other, and quite likely
can figure out how they might be related to each other.
Our Western heritage went through a lot of steps
to get where it is at (and believe me...it is in sickness). You
have law courts that have already decided the "age of accountability"
and our culture simply assumes a normal phase of life where one goes
through a trial "to find themselves," find out what they want to be
"when they grow up." This is all a part of a larger cultural
ethos. I taught a course that compared Erik Erikson's stages of
human development and compared them culturally, for example with
American Independence. The Western enlightenment clearly values the need
to "break from authority." There is a "traditions of breaking
tradition." This is very much what the adolescent phase is
supposed to be, rebellious and independent.
But other cultures don't see much in this.
It is just toned down, not the same and certainly not enshrined in their
educational and legal systems.
It is in the West were we introduce the dualism of
mind/body. For example, the body of a female can have children at
a very young age, but the Western culture introduces a "mental age."
Well, what is that? That is a cultural construct. I would say that
I have never seen a young female in America (as yet) that at age 13
could be fit to raise a family (maybe I never tried much but can't think
of anyone). But, did I see that in the Bedouin context?
Absolutely. Much of the behaviors that are done by women of 40
are already started at age 10 in some of these settings (just my small
perception which would need to be verified by many others). So the
phrase "children raising children" fits well in certain cultural
settings, but doesn't fit at all in others.
Finally, the women in Islam always has the right
to say No. I can't quote the place, but I know that a No three
times means no. People can speak of entrapment and coercion and
point out the few options that make people decide a certain way, but
there is also a sense that you have to ask what right you have to
introduce choice options that are themselves not present to anyone in a
particular setting. Moreover, they may not even want the choice
options that you are concerned about
Picture having a Western feminist from Southern
California arrive off a plane in Saudi Arabia. Have her live a few
months in the middle of a typical, traditional Arab Muslim community.
She sees that a 12 year old is about to marry a 30 year old man.
She is very upset by this and attempts to "raise the consciousness" of
the people, and even the young girl. What do you think would
happen? She would likely be shipped back to the airport for fear
of her safety. In most cases, neither the parents, the husband nor
the young girl would even entertain what she is suggesting, nor even
want it. In my wife's aunt's case, she thought she won a million
dollars and married the king for marrying the man she did at 13, and has
had a very fruitful life as a respected family.
I agree with the points made on this list serve
about finding the truth. It is very threatening for many people to
acknowledge cultural difference and to respect it
Again, do not take me in any way as an interpreter
for the Koran or Hadith. I am still learning Arabic, so really
don't do that. I speak from the standpoint of culture. I respond
to this point about the life of the Prophet and the difference of our
One point to consider.
Few people address this, but romantic love and the
age of chivalry owe a lot to Islam! The Crusades of Europe left a
huge scar on European society. The pope was offering forgiveness
of sins (entire family sins) for taking up the sword, go to the Holy
Lands and slay the Muslim. Everyone is still reeling from it even
today. The Great Saladin Ayoubi soundly defeated the
European invaders in Jerusalem. The story goes that one of the
Crusaders raped a relative of Saladin's, as did other so called
Christian Crusaders do the same. There was a point where Saladin
decided they had to go.
When he defeated them, he did not kill all of the
soldiers, but did make an example of the offending soldier who was known
for the rape. He removed the head of this person and then let all the
soldiers go back to Europe (second Crusade) and only asked them to
report how they were treated. He then took the "keys" to Jerusalem
from the Western Christian (brutes) and gave the "keys" to the Eastern
Christians who had had it before the Christians arrived. He
reasoned that this is how Allah had set this up and he wanted it to stay
What happened after the Crusades is in the
history books. Poetic stories rose up about chivalry and the love
of a lady. There is also King Arthur's tales of the knights.
These stories have strong themes of individualism and romantic love.
Each knight of the round table has his own idiosyncratic challenge.
He "finds" himself through a greater cause, but in very specific
detailed events related to him. This was a different kind of
literature. Also, romantic love. The honor of a women.
In short, as time goes on, you have a "birth" of the quest to find
oneself through individual effort and the honor of a women. The
"BELOVED." My point is that Saladin taught the Crusaders a
huge lesson about the honor of a women, which was central to what led to
the defeat of the second Crusades. Those Crusaders went back to
Europe seeing that women have a special role. Now they perverted
it and made it into something else, but they did see and learn something
that was out of their orbit when they were defeated (by the way the
second Crusade was the back breaker...the one the led to all the
None of this (Romantic love/Chivalry) was in
Europe before the Crusades. The disillusionment of finding truth
through the sword, led to another quest related to romantic love (these
are broad strokes I am giving here). Marriages in Europe were
arranged very similar to how they were at the time of the Prophet and
even today in many/most Arabic Islamic settings (minus the stress on
"honor" in the Islamic context). Bedouins marry their first
cousins, for example, even today...so you don't have the reliance on
romantic love even in our own time. Marriages were all arranged, with
some degrees of variance. The women can say No, but rarely does in
The point to this is that romantic love is a
Western cultural construct. It is a mix of erotic attraction,
religion, and a belief in individualism/individuation.
It is a total package. But, look at the deplorable state of
marriage in the Western society. As a social construct that
drives masses of people, it hasn't proved to be a very good basis for
marriage. Yeah, the inspiration of a good women can cause a man
(and women) to do all sorts of things, but when it comes to raising a
family and raising them in a responsible way. Well, you see a lot of
It goes to what a marriage and family is.
Yes, there is sexuality in place to be married and to have children.
You do have to have sexual love and/or relations in a marriage. But in
the context of a marriage is something quite different than romantic
love. As our society knows very well, romantic love is rarely
"pure." All the perverted sexual abuse of America and the West
(hardly expressed anywhere in Muslim societies) is proof that romantic
love (and the self actualization that goes with it) is no foundation for
Finally, we recently heard a certain
ex-Senator (from South Dakota) and his wife, who is of Syrian
background, claim that having more than one wife is "not really" allowed
in the Koran. She quoted the Sura that states that males may have
more than one wife if they can treat them "equally." She reasoned
that since it is impossible to love each women "equally" then it is not
allowed to have more than one wife. This is a typical way of
misreading and changing something to fit into our own Western cultural
setting. The Sura is related to justice, not love. No one
can love equally, as if you can measure love on some scale. But
justice is everywhere an Islamic concern and especially in the family,
and justice with wives is clearly defined in the Koran. A man's
wives must be treated with justice and according to the rules laid forth
in the Koran. The issue of "loving" them equally is a Western
projection back into the text of the Sura related to the widespread
belief in romantic love in the West.
It isn't that men and women can't share
romantic love, which they can. I think in the end the Prophet laid
forth an example just as this one to instruct people beyond the
limitations of cultural setting and time period. Yes it really is
true the Prophet (Salallahu Aleyhi wa Sallam) as a man in his fifties
married a women that was somewhere between the ages of 9-14. There
has to be some kind of message about how confused we are today (reverse
the judgment), rather than there being something wrong with it back
then. What do you think?
Nine years old...! Yes. To my mind
this is kind of an instruction. If we reverse this and say that
the Prophet (Salallahu Aleyhi wa Sallam) has laid forth an exemplary
example, then there is a possible message for those places where abuse
and discrimination completely close doors on a different way of life.
I think the on going story of colonialisms would require us to consider
such examples as a message against a dominant culture and the
"colonialisms of the mind" that people have to contend with who are
raised in the education and cultural ethos of the West/America.
"The more you can increase fear of drugs, crime,
mothers, immigrants, and aliens, the more you can control
all the people." Noam Chomsky