Managed Marriages: Are We A Super Race?
By Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi
25 June 2013
I knew Malak in her early 20s. She was a romantic dreamer, full of passion for learning and work, life and love. She studied biology in the morning, worked for my newspaper in the afternoon, and wrote poetry and short stories in the evening. The combination of intelligence and beauty, enthusiasm and idealism, kindness and generosity gave her instant success and fame.
Malak is over 30, now. She has lost much of her beauty and optimism as a result of multiple physical and psychological illnesses. When she was younger, slimmer, healthier and happier, many suitors asked for her hand.
The first was the love of her life, a handsome Syrian boy. Her father turned them all down, together with most of the suitors for her sisters.
The kind, but arrogant, father regarded his tribe as a super race. After he passed away, his sons showed even more arrogance. Now, as the women have passed the ideal marriage age with the loss of so much time and well-being and so many emotional scars, men are less interested.
My last article, “Managed marriages and an ocean of broken hearts” June 18, drew many responses from women like Malak. Angels who feel that their hearts or those of their children are lost because of unjust laws and traditions expressed their pain, frustration and confusion. The following story of an American mother is a good example. She writes:
“I was saddened to read your article this morning. You see, this is a very hot topic in our household. I am an American woman with an Arab Gulf nationality, married to a Gulf citizen. I have lived here for 27 years.
All of my children have dual nationality. My oldest son married an American girl and chose to live in the US. Under the current rules, he is unable to get permission to marry a foreigner. Why?
“Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said in his farewell speech: ‘All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab. Also a white has no superiority over a black, nor does a black have any superiority over a white except by piety and good action.’
“Despite our belief in Islam, and our belief that we are ruled by the tenets of Islam, the ‘superiority of the Arabs’ is the dominant rule when it comes to marriage in GCC countries. To make matters worse, it is not any Arab; it is most assuredly the Gulf Arab who has superiority and then certain tribes, and certain families in such tribes, etc. This is most definitely against the teachings of Islam, yet this rule persists.
“They say they are protecting our daughters. Perhaps they are. However, a woman is free to choose her spouse in Islam. So in protecting my daughters you are also taking away their fundamental human right and their Islamic right to marry a spouse of their choice as long as that spouse complies with Allah’s rules. He must be Muslim, and of course he must be good, kind, etc.
“Alhamdulillah, you fought for your right to marry your wife, as did my husband, but it is a totally different situation for a woman. I would like to ask the woman, whom you refer to in your article, if she is truly ready to give up everything for this man? Her children will not have her nationality. They are not entitled to free health care, free education or any other services citizens take for granted. If my child gets cancer, he is entitled to world-class care free of charge, because his father is a citizen. If her child gets cancer, she will have to pay upfront the cost of his treatment because her husband is not a citizen.
“Her children will never be truly happy nor will they be accepted, as they will be regarded as half breeds. Children of Gulf fathers can hide their foreign mothers if need be, but there is no getting away from the fact that you have a foreign father. If your family does not even support you, then you truly are alone. You have no country and no family to support you. Can love overcome all of that? Perhaps, but it is doubtful.
“Unfortunately, as long as our government insists on these rules for our children, sons as well as daughters, the divorce rate will continue to rise and the exodus of some of our best young men will continue as well as the unfortunate spinsterhood of many of our daughters. May Allah give our leaders the wisdom to see what these rules are doing to our nations so that they can correct this situation?”
So what do you think dear readers? What should a girl do if she is faced with the choice of following traditions and laws, or challenging family and society? And how can we help in changing unjust laws and mentalities?
Dr. Khaled Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah.