By: Alexandra Kinias
Forcing a woman into marriage is more atrocious than sending an innocent person to jail for life; as some of these women have no chance of parole. What is more outrageous than forcing women into matrimony is forcing minors, as young as eight years old, into marriages. My article “My Deep Condolences for Your Daughter’s Wedding” addressed the issue that minors are forced into marriages in various parts of the world because of cultural and social reasons. However, in some lands such marriages are blessed by religious clerics who licensed this appalling procedure because, according to them, it follows in the footsteps of the Prophet Mohamed who married his wife Aisha at the age of nine.
The subject of Islam and women is a very sensitive issue. In most Muslim societies, the degrading state of women is accepted as part of their belief. Even though it is unjust to women, it can not be refuted or challenged.
However, in the age of satellite and Internet, the distorted views and messages against women, broadcast on television screens by zealot clerics have successfully reached every corner of the globe. These views are stirring enormous clouds of controversies and criticism in the global arena against the religious establishment. Saudi Arabia, the most conservative country in the world, which solely takes credit for the export of the Wahabism ideology, is under tremendous pressure to reform by human rights organizations. The pressure forced King Abdullah to sign a declaration of reform that among its items was to improve the conditions of women.
The battle for reform encouraged intellectual thinkers in the Kingdom to express their critical and opposing views against the religious establishment and to challenge the decisions imposed by the clerics. It came as a surprise to me to read an article by the Saudi writer Saleh Ibrahim where he not only condemned child marriages, but also challenged it. He supported his argument with acknowledging the existence of historical records which provides serious challenges that Aisha, the wife of Prophet Mohamed was at least nineteen years old and perhaps as old as twenty four when the Prophet married her, and not nine years old as it has been presented to Muslims.
The writer concludes the article by saying that [the Saudis] have to re-evaluate what have been written in history books and perhaps [they] will discover that there are those who have enforced obsolete social customs and traditions into the religious practices merely for their benefit. He questions the concept of pedophilia and whether legitimizing it through marriage cleanses it from the crime that is being committed to minors with their father’s consent.
An eight years old girl’s right is being violated when she is forced into marriage even if her father approves. No matter from which angle the situation is looked upon, it still bears rape all over it. However, this article was a small reason for optimism. It proves that there are voices out there that have started to refute, question, challenge and reject the views of religious clerics. Reform of Islam will come from within there is no doubt about that. It may not be a surprise if the issues of the women who have been victimized by its practices trigger this reform.