It was one of those shared articles that had been plaguing Facebook after the
bombing. Its main
purpose, inevitably, was to convince the public that Islam was evil. I didn’t
save the link, but it doesn’t matter for the purpose of this column; after all,
you probably saw one or two such articles yourself. What matters was the concerned
response of one of my Facebook friend who wrote in his comment: “But
how do we reason with them without imposing our values upon them?” Boston
That, my dear friend, is the million dollar question!
The article focused on child brides in one of the predominantly Islamic countries (I’m not 100% sure, but it might have been
). The beef I had with it
wasn’t the topic itself. Even as a multiculturally aware counselor-in-training
I will argue with anybody and at any given time that marrying off
eleven-year-olds, often against their will, to men several decades their
seniors is NOT okay. And to those people who will say that in Bangladesh it
has been a tradition for centuries and we gotta respect that, I have only one
thing to say in return: Bangladesh
FUCK THE TRADITION!
Nonetheless, what irked me was that the article intentionally made it sound like Islam was the only religion guilty of pressuring children and teenagers to marry. The belief that a girl is “ready” for marriage once she gets her first period is pre-Islamic and has been practiced all over the world for centuries. Nowadays, it’s still very common in some regions in
, especially in rural areas;
and on African continent it’s been practiced by Muslim, indigenous, and
Christian communities alike. (If you don’t believe me, I suggest you do your
own research.) India
And then there is the
. United States
No, I’m not joking. Have you ever heard the name Rebecca Musser? She is a woman who had the misfortune of being born into the infamous Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints and as such was married at the ripe age of 19 to a “prophet” Rulon Jeffs (who, by the way, was 85-years old at the time of the wedding, and possessed 65 wives).
Apples and oranges, you say? Rebecca, being 19, has seemingly nothing in common with child brides. But in this particular case it’s not so much Rebecca’s own story that interests me; it’s her fight for the rights of thousands of girls and women that are born into religious cults that brainwash and oppress them, and more often than not force them to get married in their teens, usually to someone who is much older and has multiple wives. Check out Rebecca's website to learn about her activism and about what she has to say about American child brides.
And you know what? It’s NOT Muslims who are doing it! Most of these cults consider themselves indeed Christian.
United States it’s mainly the isolated fundamentalist communities in the Southwest (think Arizona
and ) that
practice polygamy, and in most of these communities, marriages of teenage girls
to older men are common. Utah
How is it possible? The state of
Utah was given an
ultimatum already in the late 19th century to either abandon
polygamy, or to secede from the . Yet polygamy is very much alive and
kicking in the state of United
Somebody must have made a mistake somewhere on the way. Consider the attitude
of Mark Shurtleff, Attorney General, quoted in Suzan Mazur's article from 2005:
“Polygamy is illegal in Utah Utah
and forbidden by the
constitution. However, law enforcement agencies in both states have decided to
focus on crimes within polygamous communities that involve child abuse,
domestic violence, and fraud.” Fine. So the authorities decided not to
prosecute polygamous communities for being polygamous, but were still willing to
protect the children. Arizona
Except – what are the chances that children, especially girls, from communities like this can even report a case of child abuse? Think about it.
I would like to believe that things have changed since 2005, but being a skeptic by nature, I somehow don’t think so. There is plenty of evidence out there that in our democratic country that prides itself on being the world’s leader in democracy, we let religious (predominantly Christian, like it or not; although admittedly we are talking about an extreme form of Christianity) cults practice not only polygamy, but also underage marriages. If anything else, watch this documentary: Banking on Heaven written, produced, and directed by Laurie Allen, who managed to escape her polygamist community at the age of 16. It will break your heart and it will convince you that it IS a real problem – right here, in our midst.
So if I were to go back to my friend’s question regarding how to reason with the people of
I would probably respond by saying: “Dear So-and-so, maybe we are not meant to
just yet. Maybe as Americans, before we start policing the whole world, we need
to make sure that nasty shit doesn’t happen in our own country – you know,
because in case it does, we look a) dumb and b) hypocritical. Otherwise, what
the hell are we going to say when somebody asks us: Why do you look at the
splinter in your brother’s eye and not notice the beam which is in your own
I, for one, wouldn’t know.
The photo of Warren Jeff with a twelve-year-old bride is accessible to public on Internet (my source: www.sodahead.com)