Sunday, June 05, 2005

Misyar, Another Islamic Innovation 

ArabNews is a valuable news source, even if I disagree with much of its editorial line. Their latest is a behind-the-scenes look at a little-known aspect of Islamic marriage, an eye-opener for anyone still caught up fresh in the bloom of infatuation with Islam's struggles against the Big Bad West (the West that gives rights to women, gays, religious minorities, racial minorities, people with bad breath -- and all the other policies so abhorred by the left).

Misyar Marriage -- a Marvel or Misery?

In a misyar marriage the woman waives some of the rights she would enjoy in a normal marriage. Most misyar brides don’t change their residences but pursue marriage on a visitation basis. Some marriage officials say seven of 10 marriage contracts they conduct are misyar, and in some cases are asked to recommend prospective misyar partners.

Most of the women opting for misyar either are divorced, widowed or beyond the customary marriage age. The majority of men who take part in such marital arrangements are already married.

“All the misyar marriage contracts I conduct are between men and women remarrying,” said Abu Fawaz, who’s been a marriage official for four years. “For a misyar marriage all you need is witnesses, her dowry and the acceptance of both parties. Usually the woman either has her own place or lives with her family. Most of the time the woman’s family knows while the man’s family is in the dark about it, be it his first wife or any other family members.”
So far, it has all the hallmarks of adultery, legitimized with a government permit. And that's even after taking into account institutionalized polygamy, which apparently just isn't enough for the Muftis' men, since those multiple wives are still entitled to a smattering of inconvenient marital rights.

The reasons men gave for favoring misyar most often related to cost, with some asking “why not?” “I get to maintain all my rights, but I don’t have to take care of her financially and don’t even have to provide a house for her,” said 25-year-old Rayan Abdullah, an unmarried medical student at the city university. “It’s a great solution — isn’t it? It costs less than having a girlfriend — doesn’t it?” Or is it a male convenience in a male-dominated culture?

“What are the things most of us married men complain about?” asked Ghazi Ahmad, a 38-year-old husband and father of three children. “Don’t all of us constantly complain about the financial burdens, the lack of personal freedom — the routine patterns? Then this is the best marriage ever as far as I’m concerned. Married but not married — perfect.”
Have they never heard of rubber dolls? You don't even have to talk to those.

Most of the women respondents called it “legal prostitution” or objected to the lack of women’s rights in misyar marriages.
Actually, I consider this good news, together with the fact that there is an English-language Arab news site willing to air these issues out. It's only a small first step, but if there's any hope for a better future, it starts with public, vocal opposition.

I'm sure some will note my advocacy of vocal opposition and wish to charge me with the worst crime known to humanity -- hypocrisy. After all, I have also recently been vocally critical of US voices of opposition and the harm they have done to US interests. If you would so charge me, please first consider for a moment the wide chasm between suppressing opposing views, and criticizing them despite allowing them. There is a difference between beating into silence those you disagree with, and asking your fellow citizens to consider their words' impact before choosing them wisely. The right to free speech carries responsibility.

“My second misyar marriage was doing fine despite my hawk of a first wife,” said Abu Abdul Rahman. “But that was only until my second wife got pregnant, and then the real nightmare began. She wanted to announce our relationship publicly because it put her in bad situations societally — you can’t be single and pregnant. I had to tell my family and my wife, and all hell broke loose. Now both marriages are on the rocks.”
It's bad enough to have one marriage on the rocks. That really sucks. Maybe they can change the rules so the poor guy wouldn't have had to tell anyone about the second wife's pregnancy. I don't know, I'm just brainstorming here.

There can be other unforeseen consequences of secrecy. “I’d been married misyarically for almost a year when members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice paid me a terrible visit accusing me of prostitution,” said a 35-year old divorcee and mother of two who chose to call herself Warda.

“They wanted to drag me to the police station even though I kept shoving the marriage contract in their faces. I had to call my brother — with whom I wasn’t on speaking terms. It was terrible. I hated myself and hated all men — my children were 6- and 7-years-old.”
Hollywood loves to complain as each non-Leftist cause represents the next McCarthyism, come to silence their brave voice of dissent. In their support of America's attackers, I wonder if they've prepared themselves for the consequences: the Hollywood Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. McCarthy only dreamed of such power.

A few details, putting this in context, from another source.

Misyar has been practiced in Saudi Arabia and Egypt for years. It was officially legalized by the Egyptian Sunni Imam Sheikh Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi in February 1999, and the Mufti of Egypt has also been defending the arrangement of misyar.

Misyar has been widely discussed through the year of 1998. Misyar has met strong opposition from scholars outside Egypt, but also from many in Egypt, especially among scholars at the al-Azhar University in Cairo. Defenders of misyar claim that the arrangement is in accordance with Islam. They also say that it gives protection to many women who do not find husbands in the more traditional way.

** Usual Disclaimer: Please don't take this information as license to hate Islam and all Muslims. Islam is an important world religion, and the vast, vast, (etc), vast majority of its adherents have no active plans to blow themselves up on crowded buses or take up arms against the U.S. Nor do they necessarily advocate the many ways that Mullahs and Ayatollahs concoct to enthrall the rank-and-file of the "Arab Street". They do not deserve to be treated as the enemy, but then again, neither do we. It will help when this vast, vast, (etc), vast reserve of moderate Islam stands up and demonstratively chooses sides. For the longer they refrain from doing so, the harder it becomes to conclude it's just because they haven't gotten around to it yet. It would also help for organizations like CAIR to get off the fence, or instead, to first crawl back to the fence before clambering back over.

Hint: the next Muslims Against Terror rally needs more than 50 attendees. And for our part, it will help for the Muslims who are ready to step forward to know they will be supported, rather than denounced as vile traitors to the cause of resisting Bush's America.

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: