Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Married For A Minute

Over the "Canada" Day long weekend, a Calgary group is holding a conference called The Power of Unity: Islam in a MultiCultural Canada. "Abraham Ayache, chairman of the Muslim Council of Calgary, said the conference is being organized to celebrate 50 years of Islam in Calgary and is all about unity and celebrating multiculturalism. ... A recent posting on the MCC website under the heading 'Ask the Imam' seems to indicate that some of the organization's hired imams haven't read the memo about cultural tolerance and unity. In answer to a question by a single mother concerned about her children no longer being obedient to her, an imam on the site wrote: 'You should instil a hatred for this culture and its ways in the hearts of your children.' He also wrote: 'It is haraam (forbidden) for you to give your children free rein in forming friendships with the children of the kuffaar.'Kuffaar, or kufir, is synonymous with infidel or nonbeliever. Translation: the vast majority of Canadian society." (Calgary Herald, June 7, 2012) ***************************************************************************************** This recoiling from the dirty ways of the immoral infidel is a trademark response wherever Islam encounters the wider world. But apart from veiling and refusing to shake hands with women, what's it like to be morally irreproachable? "In the Islamic Republic of Iran, sex outside of marriage is a crime, punishable by up to 100 lashes or, in the case of adultery, death by stoning. Yet, the purpose of a temporary marriage is clear from its name in Arabic—mut'a, pleasure. A man and a woman may contract a mut'a for a finite period of time—from minutes to 99 years or more—and for a specific mehr [payment, in the Farsi language], which the man owes the woman. ... Remarkably, Iran's Shiite clerics not only tolerate sigheh [the Farsi name for the contractual, um, union], but actively promote it as an important element of the country's official religion. 'Temporary marriages must be bravely promoted,' the interior minister said at a clerical conference in [the holy city of] Qom in 2007. 'Islam is in no way indifferent to the needs of a 15-year-old youth in whom God has placed the sex drive.' Yet, the Iranian mullahs' efforts to rehabilitate sigheh have met a stubborn core of resistance—particularly from feminists, who decry the practice as a kind of 'Islamic prostitution.' ... At the time of the prophet Muhammad, in the late sixth and early seventh centuries, temporary marriage was already common in Arabia, and many Islamic scholars believe he recommended it in circumstances such as pilgrimage, travel, and war. Most Shiites go a step further, maintaining that the practice is endorsed by the Koran. The second caliph, Umar, banned temporary marriage, but Shiites reject his authority because they believe he usurped Muhammad's rightful heir, his son-in-law Ali. The Pahlavi shahs, who ruled Iran until 1979, sought to delegitimize temporary unions as backward, but after the revolution, the Islamic authorities moved to reclaim the tradition. *************************************************************************************** In 1990, President Hashemi Rafsanjani offered a widely noted sermon on the practice, emphasizing that sexual relations aren't shameful. He encouraged young couples to contract marriages 'for a month or two'—and to do it entirely on their own if they felt shy about going to a mullah to register the union. Two decades later, Iran's Shiite clerics continue to endorse temporary marriage as a sexual escape valve. (Sunni variations on the theme are also on the rise throughout the Middle East.) In an interview at his home in Qom, the conservative ayatollah Sayyid Reza Borghei Mudaris offered a list of who might benefit from temporary marriage: a financially strapped widow; a young widow—'She answers her needs because if she doesn't, she will have psychological problems'; a man who cannot afford a permanent marriage; and a married man with domestic problems who needs 'a kind of medicine.' ... While the ayatollahs see temporary marriage as good for both sexes, feminists point out its lopsided nature: It is largely the prerogative of wealthy married men, and the majority of women in sighehs are divorced, widowed, or poor. Only a man has the right to renew a sigheh when it expires—for another mehr [payment]—or to terminate it early. While women may have only one husband at a time, men may have four wives and are permitted unlimited temporary wives. ... Yet, women do derive some benefits from sigheh. Children born of sighehs are considered legitimate, and entitled to a share of their father's inheritance. In a permanent marriage, the family usually negotiates a dowry on the bride's behalf; a woman entering a temporary marriage sets her own terms. A temporary wife has no right to maintenance or inheritance, but she also has fewer obligations than her permanent counterpart—her duty to obey her husband encompasses only sex." (Mother Jones, March/April 2010) ************************************************************************************** [This article appears in the August, 2012 issue of the CANADIAN IMMIGRATION HOTLINE. Published monthly, the CANADIAN IMMIGRATION HOTLINE is available by subscription for $30 per year. You can subscribe by sending a cheque or VISA number and expiry date to CANADIAN IMMIGRATION HOTLINE, P.O. Box 332, Rexdale, ON., M9W 5L3.] --------------------------------------------------------------------------------